Fall and winter months are excellent times to attract more birds to your yard and fortunately there is an easy way to do this. In fact, attracting more birds during these months is so easy it involves doing very little at all. With fall now upon us, many homeowners are reaching for rakes and pruners and are busy bagging leaves, picking up sticks, and cutting back perennials that have long since flowered in an effort to beautify their properties. The truth is many of these items considered yard waste are incredibly beneficial to birds and will actually attract more of them to your yard.
Seed heads produced by many perennial flowers offer an excellent food source that will attract a wide variety of songbirds to your yard. Refraining from cutting these back until next spring creates a steady supply of natural food throughout the fall and winter months. In my garden for example, the seeds produced by native coneflowers have been attracting American Goldfinches for several weeks now. The asters and goldenrod that were providing a food source for migrating Monarch Butterflies only a few weeks ago are now offering a natural food source as well. White-throated Sparrows have recently migrated back into our area and the bounty of seeds in my garden has attracted good numbers of these birds looking to replenish spent energy.
By not cutting back perennials until next spring the remaining dry foliage of these plants also provides a home for many insects. Downy Woodpeckers and Black-capped Chickadees are regularly observed during fall and winter months extracting gall fly larva from goldenrod stalks.
This past week I observed an Orange-crowned Warbler foraging on insects in my garden as it made a brief stop to feed during its migration south. These insects would not have been present had I cut back the flowers in an effort to make my yard more aesthetically pleasing. Other birds observed feeding heavily on seeds and insects this past week in my garden were both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Tufted Titmouse, and Dark-eyed Juncos which have recently returned to our area to spend the winter months By leaving the remnants of these flowers, my garden offers a natural food source for many songbirds while also providing plenty of cover from predators and the elements.
After the recent high winds many of us will find tree limbs scattered across the ground on our properties. Rather than bundling them up and dragging them to the curb or breaking them down so they will fit into a container, consider constructing a brush pile by piling them in a corner of your yard. Brush piles attract birds by providing shelter from harsh weather and predators.
Leaves in a garden may not be the look most of us are accustomed to when it comes to landscaping but this so called yard waste is incredibly beneficial. Allowing leaves to decompose in a garden will enhance soil quality and provide nutrients to trees, flowers, and shrubs. Leaf litter is also home to a multitude of insects which in turn attracts a variety of birds. Rather than bagging my leaves and placing them at the curb, I now mulch all of my leaves with a lawnmower and add them to my gardens while leaving some on my lawn over the winter. I quit using fertilizer years ago and my lawn (excluding this summer’s extended dry spell) has never looked better.
Another great way to attract more birds to your property with less yard work is by not removing dead limbs or branches from trees if safe to do so. Many birds prefer dead limbs for perching while also being drawn to the bevy of insects found within the wood. Come spring, these same dead branches will provide potential nesting sites for cavity nesters such as woodpeckers and nuthatches.
If you are like me and love attracting birds to your yard, try implementing these methods this fall. I think you will find that soon after taking these measures you will notice an increase in the number of birds visiting your yard. Not only will you enjoy more birds and potentially even a new species or two, spending less time doing yard work will free up more time for birding and other leisure activities on your well-deserved days off.
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