When late autumn arrives and blooming has stopped, many people clean up their fall garden by removing spent flower stalks. However, these stalks are full of seeds, which is nature's winter bounty for birds. Leave the stalks in place and let the birds enjoy the feast. Examples of seed-rich flower heads include: asters, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, cosmos, coreopsis and many other daisy-related flowers. Goldenrods, grasses, berry-bearing shrubs and trees are also good sources for winter nourishment, so take advantage of these natural bird feeders.
In addition to a bountiful, well-planned autumn garden, many gardeners and homeowners provide supplemental food, especially during the colder months, in the form of man-made bird feeders filled with seed or suet. Whether you put away your bird feeder for the season or leave it out for year-round use, autumn is the ideal time to give it a rigorous cleaning. A hygienic bird feeder helps prevent the spread of avian diseases.
Birds need water that they can safely get to for drinking and bathing. A filled birdbath is the easiest water source for thirsty birds. They come in a variety of styles and enhance the beauty of the garden. If you have ceramic or concrete birdbaths, clean and put them away in the fall; this protects them from damage caused by freezing temperatures. To provide water for winter birds, set up a ground-level birdbath on the south side of your home, or on a south-facing fence or hedge. They stay unfrozen longer than above-ground birdbaths and are easily made by placing a plastic tray or basin on the ground.
A good bird-friendly garden includes evergreen trees and shrubs for shelter from winter's weather and predators. Dense shrubbery provides year-round shelter from rain, snow and wind, private places for nests, places to hide from predators, and places to roost. The best shelter-providing trees and shrubs include junipers, pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, mesquites, rhododendrons, mahonias, manzanitas, redberry buckthorn and leucothoes.
Complete your bird-friendly garden by providing sites where birds can build nests and raise their young. Help them by providing many different types of bird nesting habitats on your property. Tall grasses, dense shrubs, evergreen trees and wooden birdhouses are but a few examples of nesting spaces birds prefer.
Birdhouses can make popular nesting sites that come in a variety of sizes, colors and styles. Just remember to make sure the birdhouse is functional and safe. As with bird feeders, fall is the perfect time to thoroughly clean any birdhouses on your property.
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