Attracting Birds and Butterflies
There isn't a better indicator that spring has truly arrived than the chirping of birds early in the morning and the sight of butterflies drifting among the plants and flowers. Both birds and butterflies are easy to attract to one's garden and make for a cheery atmosphere.
How do I attract birds?
Installing a feeder in your backyard is the fastest and easiest way to attract numerous species of birds. Most feeders come with hooks and can be attached on a fence, tree, or metal rod simply by using strong wire. Just putting one up is enough to ensure a flock of birds to visit regularly. There are multiple types of bird feeders that cater to all types of birds. Here are the most common types of feeders:
- Tube feeders are almost always made up mainly of a clear plastic tube that can be covered in perches, a protective metal mesh, or bases.
- Tube feeders can also come in groups of 3 allowing for more birds to feed from them.
- Tube feeders keep the seeds reasonably clean and dry, and if the metal meshed tube feeders are purchased they can even be somewhat squirrel resistant.
- Multiple seed types can be used to fill tube feeders.
- Hopper feeders tend to be house shaped, and are almost always constructed with multiple sides and a roof.
- While the roof protects the seeds from weather damage, the wide perches of hopper feeders allow for easy access to squirrels.
- Hopper feeders are arge enough to hold a huge quantity of seeds and keep seed clean.
- Hopper feeders attract most feeder birds like finches, jays, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, and titmice.
- Thistle feeders are specially designed to utilize either thistle seeds or Nyjer seeds. Nyjer seeds are most popular with finches.
- There is an option to buy a thistle feeder that is built upside down so that the birds would have to eat upside down from little openings so the seeds could stay dry and weather-free for longer.
- Thistle Feeders are best for attracting Goldfinches.
- Also known as hummingbird feeders, nectar feeders are designed to hold nectar or a sugar solution either with a bottle or saucer.
- Bottle nectar feeders are often made out of glass and plastic and use plastic red flowers with bee-guards on the feeding openings.
- Saucer nectar feeders are called Oriole feeders and employ saucers instead of red flowers for feeding.
How do I keep squirrels and other rodents away from my feeders?
If you place your birdfeeder next to a fence or tree, you will be allowing any rodent easy access to the seeds and nuts inside. Rats and squirrels especially will use the feeders and cause a mess in your backyard by spilling the majority of the seeds on the ground, and soon you'll have a few resident rats or squirrels roaming around. The best way to rid your garden of these pests is to ensure that the feeder is far enough away from anything that a rodent can climb on. Placing the feeder on a metal rod or hanging it from one is a good way of keeping rodents at bay since the rod is slippery and doesn't allow for any surface for the squirrels or rats to grab onto. If space is an issue in your backyard or you have no open room to place a feeder, then a squirrel proof feeder is suggested. Usually, these feeders have a defense mechanism somewhere on the feeder that are weight sensitive and shut off the feeding port if anything heavier than a bird lands on the perch. A simpler squirrel proof feeder is a tube feeder surrounded by a metal mesh.
Keep it Organic
Birds and butterflies eat insects as part of their diet so it is important that you do not use pesticides. If there are no bugs in your yard, then you will have fewer birds and butterflies. Use organic solutions to pest control like soap and oils, and decide for yourself if a pest is so much of a problem that you have to take action against it.
Is there any other way to attract birds?
Bird baths are another pleasurable way to enjoy the sight and sound of birds without the mess of seeds or the nuisance of rodents. Most bird baths either come on a stand or have hooks to allow for hanging from a rail or tree. Bird baths only require the water to be changed or refilled every so often and even water the surrounding greenery when the birds splash water over the edge.
How do I attract butterflies?
If you have a garden, you'll probably have butterflies some time during the year. Keep in mind that planting only flowers ensures for adult butterflies to flock to your garden, but a good butterfly garden would also provide places for eggs to be laid and caterpillars to grow and mature. While most butterfly plants are seen as weeds, there are plenty of good plants to be brought into a garden. The most popular nectar producing plants for butterflies are asters, azalea, bee balm, blueberry, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, coneflower, goldenrod, impatiens, Joe-Pye weed, lilac, marigolds, verbena and yarrow. Brighly colored flowers also attract butterflies, since they're able to spot the large patches of color from a distance away.
I have plenty of flowers for butterflies, why are there still none in my garden?
Having a large floral garden isn't sufficient; there are several other factors that determine whether or not your garden will be visited by butterflies. Butterflies usually first start appearing in the spring when the temperature gets above 60 degrees F. They fly most often when the weather is between 85 and 100 F. During bad weather, butterflies need shelter like any other animal and seek protection under leaves or in shrubs. Once a butterfly visits your garden, he is likely to spend the summer there as long as you've provided some loose mulch or bark for him to hibernate in and be protected.
Also read our follow-up to this article, Top 10 Bird and Butterfly Plants from the Yard Fairy.