Are you a “bird gardener?” Many gardeners love the natural world and also enjoy it by hiking, biking, fishing or watching birds. As a home gardener, you are in a great position to nurture birds in your area.
While setting up a bird feeder helps, the plant choices and design decisions you make can also create the type of habitat birds flock to. One measure of the health of your yard is the presence of birds, insects and other creatures.
There are a number of great books for bird gardeners, whether beginners or advanced. Here are four favorites:
Birdscaping in the Midwest by Marie Nowak is a great book for northern birders and gardeners. Nowak defines the Midwest as everything from Ohio to Minnesota, and she offers many suggestions for native plants to use to attract specific bird species, such as hummingbirds or water fowl. This well-illustrated guide also includes design tips (don’t forget the water for birds!) and several designs you could incorporate into your home garden. Overall, a great choice for Midwest gardeners.
Some years ago, I read Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips by Deborah Martin. While the focus of this book is national, it covers all the basics about creating a yard that attracts birds. Martin goes bird-by-bird through some popular species and offers design ideas as well. This book is often suggested for novice birders and would be a great place for any bird-loving gardener to start.
A more recent book to consider is George Adams’ Gardening for the Birds. Adams emphasizes recreating natural ecosystems in your yard to attract a wide range of native bird species. The book covers how to provide the four necessities for birds (food, water, cover and nesting sites) and includes design tips, as well as lists of birds and plants. The book has more than 400 illustrations, making it the perfect book to page through on a cold winter night.
Finally, every birding gardener should have bird book to help you identify the species in your backyard. For beginners, I highly recommend Stan Tekiela’s series on birds. He has “Birds of …” books for most states, which are organized by bird color, making them very easy for beginners to use. Once you become more of a bird expert, you may want to buy one of the big guides to birds, such as the Stokes Guide to Birds of North America or the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America.
Winter is a good time to get started with birding — the snow on the ground and bare trees makes it easier to see which birds are visiting your garden.