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(MCT)—If there is one thing I have come to learn over the last few months is that birds make the landscape.The National Butterfly Center has every native plant imaginable for butterflies but the garden would not be as enjoyable without the host of birds. The enthusiasts with safari shirts, Tilley hats and the high-end cameras give further testimony to their importance.

But what about your home—can you duplicate it without looking like a wildlife refuge? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Birdbaths and feeders are readily available at all garden centers and can put you on the road to identifying birds you never knew were around. Attracting an assortment of colorful birds to your landscape is a project the whole family can enjoy.

Bird feeders can be great educational projects for children. They open a whole new world by giving children the responsibility for choosing the location and maintaining a feeder. Armed with a bird guide or encyclopedia, your child will be identifying the feasting birds in your yard in no time. Even the most advanced birder comes to our center armed with a guide book or two.

Birds need more than just food. Birdbaths will supply water for drinking and bathing. They not only are functional but can become an attractive focal point in the landscape. Just today I watched seven Greater Kiskadees all gathered around a bird bath. Though you might not have them in your region you are sure to have some every bit as enjoyable to watch. But you have to provide the water.

Here at the National Butterfly Center we don’t provide birdhouses, but do have great nesting opportunities in native trees and shrubs. At your home you can do both, plant trees and include birdhouses like fine yard art. These have become the rage nationally, from the very simple single-story bungalows, to decorative gourds, to those that look like churches, schools and even antebellum homes. I have seen some birdhouses that almost make me wish I could live there. I have also seen birdhouses that cost more than some cars I have owned.

While bird feeders, houses and baths are fun for the family, you’ll want to incorporate native plants in the landscape with berries or fruit that birds consider a delicacy. In my area of Deep South Texas plants like the fiddlewood with bright orange berries, the anacua with its yellow fruit, and the Barbados cherry with its deep cranberry colored fruit are bird favorites.

In your area the favorites may be the steel blue berries of the wax myrtle, the bright red fruit of the dogwood or one of a dozen hollies. It is pretty neat to have good looking trees and shrubs that also serve as food and shelter for birds.

Most parts of the country have native sumac, many of these are champions when it comes to feeding birds. The stag horn sumac is one such prize, feeding a documented 94 species of birds.

As fall approaches, we can rest assured it is one of the best times for planting trees and shrubs. We can select those that are native and produce an abundance of fruit or berries for the urban wildlife. Add birdhouses, feeders and baths, and you have created your own backyard wildlife habitat for you and the birds.

© 2011, Norman Winter.

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