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Make Your Back Yard Welcome "Everybirdy"
By Norman Winter
Central MS Research & Extension Center
From the simplest backyards to the most complex gardens, any landscape can be made more beautiful by the presence of birds.
Birdbaths and feeders are readily available at all garden centers and can put you on the road to identifying birds you never knew were around. Attracting an assortment of colorful birds to your lawn is an effortless project the whole family can enjoy.
Bird feeders are great educational projects for children. They open a whole new world by giving children the responsibility for choosing the location and maintaining a feeder.
Armed with a bird guide or encyclopedia, your child will be identifying the feasting birds in your yard in no time. Birds that feed during the spring and summer will come to rely on feeders during the fall and winter months, too.
Birds need more than just food. Birdbaths will supply water for drinking and bathing. They not only are functional but can become an attractive focal point in the landscape. Be sure to locate your birdbath away from trees or shrubs where cats could spring a surprise attack.
Birdhouses have become the rage -- from the very simple single- story bungalows, to the decorative gourds to those that look like churches, schools and even ante-bellum homes. I have seen some birdhouses that almost make me wish I could live there. I have also seen birdhouse that cost more than some cars I have owned. Remember, if you build it they will come.
While bird feeders, houses and baths are fun for the family, I would encourage you to incorporate plants in the landscape with berries or fruit that birds consider a delicacy.
It is pretty neat to have good looking trees and shrubs that also serve as food and shelter for birds. In much of the South, the southern wax myrtle is native and can be used effectively as a small tree or large shrub. You may not have even noticed those waxy blue berries, but 40 species of birds including bobwhite quail and turkey feast on them.
Hollies -- like the yaupon, possum haw and American holly -- produce those red berries we associate with Christmas, but they also are food for a number of birds.
Gorgeous spring dogwoods provides fruit that turns bright red in the fall and is quickly devoured by 28 species of birds, as well as deer and squirrels.
The blue-gray fruit of the eastern red cedar, the Tupelo tree, sweetgum, blackhaw viburnum and American Beauty berry with its bright purple fruits are all considered sources of food for birds.
As you drive down the road and see the staghorn sumac, you may be looking at the king of bird trees. Ninety-four species of birds like its fruits including the mourning dove, bobwhite quail, pheasant and grouse.
As fall approaches, we can rest assured it is one of the best times for planting trees and shrubs. We can select those that are native to the South and produce an abundance of fruit or berries for the urban wildlife. Add birdhouses, feeders and baths, and you have created your own wildlife sanctuary.