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Birds in the Garden
by Mike Mekelburg,
Professional birder Tom Savage gave an exceptional talk on bird gardening at the
last Ajo Garden Club meeting. It was immediately clear that Savage knows his
Arizona low-desert birds; what they eat, where they nest, how to attract them.
What was of even greater interest were some of the hard-hitting points Savage
made that brought an occasional gasp from the audience.
For instance not everyone should try to attract birds to their yard, and here's
the reason: An estimated 12 million birds are lost every year in the United
States to cats. A further 100 million are lost each year to collisions with
picture windows. Ergo, if you have cats or picture windows in your house, you
may be doing more harm than good by bird gardening.
Sadly, all the birds killed by cats and windows is a drop in the bucket compared
to those lost to destroyed habitat; namely development of the land.
Savage noted that there has been a tremendous decrease in bird populations, so
bird gardening is definitely beneficial. But don't just do it, do it right.
The most basic ingredients of successful bird gardening are water and cover. A
rock or perch of some kind can be placed in the water supply so small and young
birds can partake. Cover can include plants that provide food, shade, and
nesting. Prickly pear cactus and aloe vera are good choices.
Seed feeding is a mistake according to Savage. Desirable birds can forage for
themselves. Seed feeding helps the house sparrow, the most common bird in
Arizona, who tends to take over an area and drive off more desirable birds.
Remember that hummingbirds should only be given a sugar and water solution mixed
at the ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Honey, corn syrup, and food
colorings are not recommended.
There may be nothing we can do about the rapid development of our low desert
habitat, but we can take steps to bring that habitat back into our yards.
Landscaping with native plants is generally a win-win situation
"The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world."
-- Vita Sackville-West
Illustration courtesy of Donna Atwood
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated May 28, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopafirstname.lastname@example.org 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092