5Ws+1H: How It's Done: Landscape, garden adjustments help attract birds

Mar. 28—Making adjustments to landscapes or gardens can attract birds to the area.

Heather Winn, Cherokee County OSU Extension Office family and consumer science educator, said one way birds can be enticed into yards is by offering a wide selection of plants that provide food and shelter.

Forsythia or lilac hedges are good options, as Winn said yards must include fruit or seed-bearing plants.

"An evergreen holly hedge provides shelter and food in the wintertime for birds," Winn said. "They suggest using native plants when possible, because our native plants are often drought-resistant, cold- and heat-tolerant, and then they are also proven bird attractors."

Hummingbirds can be drawn in by planting flowering plants, among them early bloomers like petunia, hardy fuchsia, and foxglove, or late bloomers like cardinal flower, salvia, and trumpet creepers.

Winn said if planted in bright sunny areas, the flora will generate more nectar. Gardeners establishing landscapes with birds in mind should be aware of the chemicals they use.

"Read the label and follow that," Winn said. "There is a time and a place for everything, because you don't want to take care of your plants, but you also have to consider the fact that you have wildlife there that are going to be using it for food and cover. So be sure, if you do use any chemicals, to read on the label to make sure it will be safe for the wildlife that maybe coming in to either ingest the berries or the nectar that come from the flowers."

Additional elements — such as bird feeders and baths — can incentivize more to flock to an area. Birdbaths should be kept away from the feeders, Winn said, and those should be cleaned every three days and disinfected a couple times a year. The feeders should be well-stocked throughout the winter, and trees and shrubs must be no closer than 10 feet to help birds escape predators.

Proper cleaning needs to be done to feeders routinely, Winn said, to keep diseases from forming through moldy seed and bird droppings.

"It should be washed with a solution of 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of water," Winn said. "Use a bottle brush to get down in the little tiny crevices and rinse it with warm water."

Winn said cardinals, juncos, sparrows, chickadees, finches, mourning doves, and others will often visit seed feeders, while fruit feeders are popular for robins, woodpeckers, orioles, bluebirds, etc.

Nectar feeders commonly attract hummingbirds and orioles, especially if it is near a hummingbird garden. Winn said honey and sugar substitutes should not be used in a nectar mix, as it will bring in unwanted bees and a fungus that can be fatal to the animal.