Gardening for Birds using Florida Native Plants
To attract birds to your yard, think about creating a habitat with food, shelter, and water to meet the needs of both nesting and migratory birds. Building an ecosystem rich with plant and animal life will attract a variety of birds throughout the year.
Migration occurs in spring and fall. Birds need calorie dense foods, like seeds and berries, during their stops to fuel the long distance flights from their summer nesting sites to their winter habitats. Nesting birds are those that breed and raise their young locally. Growing babies need huge amounts of protein in the form of insects. Birds can make hundreds of trips back to the nest per day to feed their growing nestlings.
To feed migratory birds, use plants that provide seeds, nuts, or berries. Birds migrate north through Florida late April to early May. Fall migration stretches from August through October. Having a variety of plants that flower and fruit throughout the year ensures migrating birds will find something to eat in your yard.
Any flowering plant that attracts pollinators will help support nesting birds. Parent birds will bring the insects found on your plants back to the nest. Be sure to leave some of the “dead” flowers so that seeds can develop to feed birds later in the season.
Oaks are a key group of plants for both migratory and nesting birds. They support nearly 1,000 species of moth and butterfly caterpillars. Those Oak Rollers that hang down and get in your hair? They help make up the base of the food chain that supports birds. Leave the leaf litter below your oak because that is where the caterpillars pupate.
In order to feel safe, birds need to be able to retreat from open spaces where they may be foraging or drinking. Providing layers of low groundcovers, grasses, shrubs, and trees will give birds a wide variety of places to hide from predators. Vary the density of plants to add interest to your landscape while supporting the nesting preferences of different types of birds.
Provide at least 2 sources of water in your garden for birds to drink and bathe. Bird baths should be shallow with a textured surface. Add fresh water frequently so the birds know they have a reliable source in your yard. Once they are in the habit of using your baths, birds will often wait nearby for a bath when you get the hose out!