Absolutely Florida 2002
collage by Barbara Bose
Florida is paradise for bird lovers with incredible diversity in birds, including more than 480 bird species. In addition to year round bird residents, Florida provides a winter haven for many species that return north in spring. This lets gardeners readily attract a wide variety of bird visitors, both common and rare. Using the ideas explored here, you can attract Purple Martins, Summer Tanagers, Painted Buntings, Eastern Mockingbirds and more to your garden.
To attract birds most people think of providing food. Actually providing fresh clean water is an even greater attraction for birds. Water will often induce migrating birds to stop for a drink and a rest. This easily increases the types of birds in your garden. A quick and easy birdbath you can make for yourself involves a stand made of a large clay pot that you turn upside down. The water basin is made from a large clay saucer that is glazed. The ideal way to provide water is with a traditional bird bath on a pedestal. Don't provide water or food too close to the ground, unless you have no cats or other furry predators in your garden. It is good to place the bird bath on a lawn, or surrounded by short flowers or shrubs, to eliminate cover for cats to sneak up on the birds.
A second water attraction that almost magically fascinates birds is dripping water. Especially during the long hot summer, birds can't seem to resist this feature. Trust me, if you set up a source of dripping water, birds that you have not seen before will visit your yard. You can buy little water drippers that attach to a bird bath. These use a small pump and a hookup to a garden hose. For another approach, pound a nail into a plastic pail, creating a tiny hole, then fill the pail with water and hang it up high. Place a container underneath it to hold water, so that the falling drops make a sound as they hit the container. Humming birds, Crested Flycatchers, Swallows and Goldfinches are enamored of the sound and the sight of this drip drip dripping, and will take showers and drinks in mid-air. This is much more entertaining for the gardener to watch than anything TV has to offer.
It is simple to begin feeding birds in your garden. At some point you will want to purchase a bird identification book, like Florida's Birds by Herbert Kale, or any Audubon or Roger Tory Peterson guide book. Once you can identify what birds you already have, and what birds you would like to attract, select bird food and feeders suited to those species. An easy way to start is with one of the tube bird feeders filled with black sunflower seeds. You will attract many athletic perching birds with this type of feeder and food, including Purple Finches, Goldfinches, Pine Siskins , Chickadees, and Painted Buntings.
Another group of birds like Mourning Doves and Rock Doves can't cling to tiny perches while feeding so the tube feeders aren't available for them. These birds will welcome a flat platform feeder. The doves will be joined by the versatile Grosbeaks, Buntings, Cardinals, Scrub Jays and Finches. Serve mixed grains as food in these platform feeders. The best mixed grains are sold in bags containing white proso millet, wheat and Milo (sorghum), thistle (Niger) seeds and black sunflower seed. Millet is a small nutritious grain with essential amino acids, wheat and Milo are favored by small birds, thistle is high in protein and fat, and sunflower seeds provide oils. Some homes have a perfect window
rollover the birds and plants to identify the species