Gardens can be designed and grown for the enjoyment of local wildlife as well as your own. A garden wildlife sanctuary can attract a continuous variety of birds throughout the seasons. Birds and butterflies are the most popular and easiest of all wildlife to attract if you provide food, water, cover and shelter.
Attracting birds to your garden is a work in progress. They are capable of clearing your property of unwanted insects and are a valuable commodity.
Ask yourself the following questions. What kinds of birds visit my area? What types of growth are they attracted to? What types of activity does your family enjoy in this area? What types of birds do you see at different times of day?
Landscaping is an important part of your bird-feeding plan. Plantings should provide food for the birds every month of the year. Consider planting small trees and shrubs that offer a variety of fruit types rather than large trees that often shade the yard and discourage other types of plant growth.
Insects are also an important food source for birds. Some, such as the nuthatch and woodpecker are highly dependent upon them.
They also like birdseeds that have high fat and high oil content. Be sure to place feeders with a variety of seed and food types in an area that allows them dense cover. This will minimise but not totally eliminate their activity around your feeders.
Water is also an important element for attracting birds to your garden. A clean, full birdbath will encourage a more stable population of birds. A pond or a small pool will attract more wildlife than almost anything else will.
Hollow and dead tree trunks, which usually make up the natural habitat for bats and birds, can be easily replaced in small yards and suburban neighbourhoods with a nesting or brooding box. A few birdhouses combined with food and water can attract a wide variety of birds to your garden throughout the year. Be sure to empty the boxes of any nesting or debris at the end of each summer.
The Goldfinches’ favourite seed is thistle. Using natural thistle also provides the Goldfinches with a silky down for nesting material. As the down is not available until late in the summer after the thistles have flowered, they nest much later in the year than most birds. The cup-shaped nests are woven tightly from plant fibres and are almost completely watertight.
If you prefer not to grow natural thistle, thistle feeders – which are designed for the Goldfinches’ own distinctive eating style of swinging themselves upside down to feed – are available. Goldfinch feeders have the perches above the holes instead of below as most feeders do. Just wait until you see their antics as they swing by their feet to reach the seed below.
Goldfinches also feed on the seed of zinnias, dandelions and other weedy plants. They will also eat small insects if their food of choice is not available and just like many other birds, they are attracted to the large colourful seed heads of sunflower plants.
Goldfinches, often called wild canaries, are attracted to thickets and grasses. They tend to avoid treeless areas and thick, dense forest. Treat these gregarious birds well by providing the basic elements of food, shelter and water and they may decide to stay year-round.