"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bring birds to small yards and patios

Perky-Pet’s Daisy Vase vintage bird waterer is a space-saving option for patios. Find it at the Wild Birds Unlimited stores in Mission Viejo and Yorba Linda.

Here's my latest column that ran today in the O.C. Register. 

             Homes don’t have to back up to acres of open space for birds and butterflies to be regular visitors.  Small patios and even balconies can attract these beautiful creatures as long as there’s a consistent source of food and water available.
             But offering these in an efficient and attractive way can present a challenge for homeowners without a traditional back yard.
            “Even if you don’t have much of a yard, you can still enjoy bird feeding,” said Alan Barry, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Mission Viejo.  “We have a number of hardware solutions that work in confined spaces.”  For example, deck clamps and mounts can attach feeders to railings. And trays and platforms can be placed under feeders to catch seeds and control any mess.
            “When it comes to bird feeding, the smaller the space, the more homeowners are concerned about mess,” Barry said. “So instead of offering loose birdseed, many customers have been using seed cylinders, which are a solid block of seed.
            “They tend to last longer because it takes longer for birds to eat it,” he said.  “They have to work harder to get the seeds loose and less ends up on the ground.”
            Offering suet cakes are another way to feed birds without the mess. Suet is a high-energy, pure-fat substance that can contain fruit, nuts and even insects to attract a variety of birds.
            Those who would like to add a birdbath to their patio might consider tall pedestal types with easy-to-clean, removable glass bowls that don’t require a large footprint, he said. There are also colorful hanging birdbaths and bird waterers that can be positioned up and out of the way. Bird waterers, similar to those used for pets, use gravity to dispense water into a dish, or port for the birds.  
But for those who live in a development that prohibits birdfeeders, a colorful container garden is a simple way to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, as well as a variety of songbirds.  
Garden expert Jerry Wang at the Green Thumb Nursery in Lake Forest suggested butterfly weed.  “It works well in pots and flowers almost constantly,” he said. 
Pentas are also an excellent nectar plant for a butterfly garden, he said.  Plants produce up to 20 clusters at a time and bloom continuously from spring to autumn. The nectar from the flowers attracts swarms of butterflies and hummingbirds.
“Grevillea is a beautiful potted plant,” Wang said. “It grows about 4-feet high and works well in a large pot.” It’s a native of Australia with tube-like blooms. “Hummingbirds go crazy for it,” he said.
Many California native plants also work well in containers, Wang said. These plants are particularly important because they are closely tied to the needs of the birds in our area.  These include Galvezia or Island-Bush Snapdragon, monkeyflower, penstemon and California fuchsia.
            Let flowering plants, such as salvia and sage, go to seed to attract American and lesser goldfinches. These bright yellow birds are attracted to the color yellow, so consider adding sunflowers, black-eyed Susan and goldenrod to your container garden. Lavender is also a draw for these showy birds. 

Happy Birding!

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