If you are looking for high drama, all you may need to do is step outside into your back yard and look around. You may be entranced by the sight of bird life from kestrels to goldfinches, robins to orioles, hummingbirds to house wrens, barn owls to kildeer. You may spot birds feeding its babies, hawks swooping to hunt prey or even Muscovy ducks around the pond. You can attract native birds to your home garden by providing shelter, food and nesting site for them. Notwithstanding the size of your yard or even if it is in the middle of the city, you can make it more attractive to wildlife by choosing native plants wisely and making sure there is enough variety of berries, seeds and nuts.
Why Choose Native Plants?
Birds migrate over cities and get tired. They need places to come down to have something to eat. Even birds that feed on fruits and seeds feed insects to their young. Insects are a rich power source of energy. Birds recognize and prefer native plants, shrubs and trees because they provide a smorgasbord of insects. Non-native plants have not yet developed specialized relationships with the native birds, such as the one that exists between monarch butterflies and milkweed plants.
Criteria For Choosing Plants For Birds
- There are some simple, easy to implement ideas for choosing native plants to attract birds-
- Grow native trees and shrubs to provide nectar, fruit, seeds or berries for different types of birds and appetites.
- Create diverse habitats by planting a variety of species but make sure that you have a group of that particular specie in your garden. For instance, rather than 20 different species, plant 6 individuals of 5 different species.
- Group and grow plants which vary in height together to create complex vertical structures from the ground up. There must be groundcovers like grass or ferns, shrubs of different size and few trees too. Layers in your garden will create a variety of places that different birds prefer.
- Grow different varieties of native plants so that there is flowering/fruiting/seeding throughout the year to attract birds
- Intersperse the yard with garden beds and clumps so that you have a dense thicket for small birds to safely fly between short distances.
- Do you have any nesting sites in your garden? Plant native grasses and let that part of your yard be messy. Do not disturb these wild areas so that birds can have a nice quiet spot to build nests in.
- You can leave leaf litter and other organic material to help build the soil for a host a diversity of invertebrates and bugs, which are food for birds.
- You can also provide clean water, put up nesting boxes and hang feeders in times of scarcity for the birds.
2 Florida Native Plants That Attract Birds
You can plant a lot of flowers, shrubs and trees in your backyard to entice birds and butterflies with interesting textures, colors and delicious scents. Two popular native plants for birds that gardeners prefer in central Florida are:
Simpson’s stopper -(Myrcianthes fragrans) is a Florida native that will look lovely in any garden at any time of the year. Its evergreen leaves give off a spicy/ citrusy scent when crushed and it provides visual interest as the outer bark breaks off to show new growth in different shade of color from pale chartreuse to deep wine. It can grow up to 20 feet tall in the right growing conditions in Florida. There is a dwarf variety available too, referred to as ‘Compacta’ which reaches 5 feet tall and is perfect for smaller landscapes.
Flowering occurs generally in spring, between April and May in Florida. The fragrant, beautiful white flowers bring in the pollinators and are followed by orange to red berries in late summer to early fall. The dense canopy of Simpson’s stopper is great for attracting some wildlife darlings like butterflies, bees, and birds because it provides protection for them when they feed on the small red fruits. The berries of this plant can attract buntings, cardinals, blue jays and the mockingbird.
Beautyberry- (Callicarpa species) is the ideal fast-growing shrub for Southeastern Florida native gardens. Beautyberry can reach about 4 feet in height. In the spring, this shrub has delicate pink flowers that grow at the junction where leaves meet stem. This eventually gives way to the ultimate showstopper – bunches of purple berries in the late summer and autumn. The berries last well into winter even when the leaves are gone, or until the birds finish off the last clusters of berries. Beautyberry is a source of color in the winter landscape.
No yard is too small and what you do at home matters immensely. You can turn your garden into a bird haven and be a part of the conservation effort. Wilcox Nursery and Landscaping can help you choose native plants for your Florida garden.
For help planning and beginning a project visit The Back Ten Feet with Sue Scott.