Greenspace: Save your money; plant flowers that feed the birds
Let’s see. You could spend $50 on a bird feeder and unending cash on seed. Or you could take that money and feed the birds, permanently, without lifting a hand.
Bird feeding has become somewhat of a religion as marketers entice us with special feeds and nifty looking feeders. A lot of the advice is predicated on life or death for the birds.
Birds were around for a long time before us. Frankly, I don’t see piles of winter-starved dead ones around. I have a feeling the bird-feeding thing is more for human consumption than birds. It makes us feel good.
Planting with a goal of bird feeding will make you feel even better. Plant flowers that form seeds in fall and stay on the stalk all winter -- a birdie buffet.
I love holly. They stay nice all winter when everything else is dead. Their red berries are bird feed. Right now, mine is filled with winter birds including cardinals. I sit in the window and watch as they feed.
One of the classic natural bird feeders is the coneflower. They produce large, daisy-type flowers all summer. Then the stalks dry and the black seed heads form and remain all winter, waiting for the birds. The black stems and heads look nice, especially when you know their purpose.
We have this fall thing about getting rid of everything dead. I’m part of that, telling folks for many years the importance of cleaning up a landscape. Now I know you can do too good a job.
Plants with seed pods are bird feeders and should remain. Once the seeds are gone, probably in February, cut them down.
Natural bird feeding is best for the birds. A commercial feeder with its almost unending food creates dependence. Birds have a natural talent to find food, but they are lazy and will take any opportunity to feed. They should be out foraging for seeds, but no, they need a feeder.
Natural feeding means you’re not feeding the urban rodents. Squirrels are famous for raiding feeders. What they drop on the ground goes to the mice and others. I got a call from a woman asking how to get rid of pigeons. You bet she had a bird feeder.
Bird feeders can also interrupt the creatures’ natural instincts. Birds dependent on a feeder become reluctant to leave it. Migratory birds tend to hang around longer when they should be winging to warmer climes.
Jim Hillibish writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.