Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bird Day Thursday-- Natural Bird Feeder

This summer marks my first ever successful planting of sunflowers. Well, perhaps it's because I wasn't the one that actually planted them, so I won't really take credit for it. Nonetheless, they have been a source of great beauty and enjoyment for me throughout the summer.

I don't know how many hours I spent observing, photographing and videotaping the steady supply of bees that are attracted to the abundant pollen of these monster flowers.
But now, even though the bright yellow sunburst petals and ginormous, perky green leaves have been replaced by drooping, browning, decaying parts, they continue to attract my attention on a daily basis. The bees are not the only critters that love sunflowers.

(And I mean they REALLY love them!)

Now that harvest season is here, and the bees have done their work collecting and spreading all the pollen, the sunflowers are now producing seeds, which attract a whole new lineup of daily visitors. I don't know why anyone would spend their hard earned money on expensive bird feeders and bird seed when they can just plant a little sunflower garden instead. If you look at a bag of store-bought bird seed, guess what one of the main ingredients is? Sunflower seeds! That's because sunflower seeds are highly nutritious, providing an abundant source of unsaturated fats, protein and fiber, and important nutrients like vitamin E, selenium, copper, zinc, folate, iron and phytochemicals.

Among the many visitors to my Natural Bird Feeder is on everyone's list of favorite birds: The Chickadee. What could be more satisfying than providing a healthy little afternoon snack for one of the cutest, most loved birds on the planet?

Next in the lineup is, in my book, one of the most stunning backyard birds in the Northwest: The Stellar's Jay. He may not be on everyone's "Top 10 Feeder Birds" list, as they are sometimes viewed as bullies that prevent other birds from getting their fill, but he is a welcome visitor to my backyard any time.

Now, I know that most sane people do not regularly put up a bird feeder for the benefit of the neighborhood Crows. And why should they? Crows are one of the most well-adapted urban species around, and seem to have no trouble finding food in anyplace where humans also inhabit, providing an endless supply of bread crumbs and fast food leftovers.

Well, even crows need to eat healthy once in a while. The Crows in my backyard seem to enjoy the harvesting process as much as the food itself, and it's an interesting experience to watch the adults pass along their skills to the younger ones.

The last sunflower-loving critter on my list is definitely not a welcome one to anyone's bird feeder. That's because he is not a bird! Bird feeder people try every trick and contraption in the book, both store-bought and homemade, to keep Squirrels out of their bird feeders! Squirrels need to eat, too, and they're going to find a way into your bird feeder no matter what you do. The nice thing about a Natural Bird Feeder is that the seed is not costing you any money, so it really shouldn't matter who is enjoying the tasty, nutritious food. So you can sit back and enjoy their acrobatic show as they go in, out, through, and under the various parts of the plant to get to their coveted treat.

I realize that my Natural Sunflower Bird Feeders will not last forever. But sunflowers are just one example of the many plants that can be used to attract birds to and/or feed birds in your backyard.

Another successful planting in my garden this summer was my tomatillo plant, which was a daily stop for bees and hummingbirds.

Other than attracting pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies) to your garden, there are many specific native plants and trees that can be planted in your yard that will provide food (seeds, nuts, fruit, insects),
nesting habitat or shelter for different types of birds during each season of the year. To find out what types of vegetation can be planted in your part of the country, check with your local Audubon Society, and look for books specific to your region.


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