by Lisa Watters-Lain, Arizona’s Garden Gal
Birds bring beauty and sound to the garden. It’s nice to put out bird feeders with seed and suet to attract birds to your yard. But birds still like to forage and find their own food, and it’s especially important to have food for them to detect when the feeders are empty.
There are many beautiful shrubs and trees with fruits and berries in the fall and winter months. Less often talked about are the common garden flowers with seeds most birds seem to gobble up. Let the last blooms stay on these plants throughout the winter and wait until spring to cut them back. Along with nourishment, many also provide shelter and nesting materials.
We usually keep sedum up for winter interest. It seems to start re-growing as soon as the old leaves die. But even the ground-hugging sedum varieties are popular with pretty much all types of seed eaters.
We’ve had cheerful yellow flowers all summer, but coreopsis really calls the songbirds in as fall color starts to show.
There are many asters, and some do better than others, but they all attract some type of bird, among them: cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, indigo buntings, nuthatches, sparrows, towhees and more.
Black Eyed Susan, or Rudbeckia
Like coneflowers, black-eyed Susans are a prairie garden staple and can remain standing through most of the winter. Birds you will find feasting on rudbeckia seeds will be: American goldfinches, chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, sparrows, and towhees.
With sturdy stems, coneflowers can remain standing long into the wettest, snowiest winters. Among the birds seen pecking at coneflowers are the American goldfinch and the pine siskin.
Unlike the nyjer thistle used in birdseed mixes, this thistle is an attractive plant and not usually aggressive. Its seeds are especially popular with goldfinches.
Goldenrod or Saladgo
These pack a double punch. Several birds, like finches, pine siskins, yellow-rumped warblers and indigo buntings munch on its seeds. But it’s also a popular overwintering site for insects. So the birds get a well-balanced meal from one plant.
Joe Pye Weed or Eupatorium
Birds love this seed to eat and to use the fluff for building warm nests. Look for chickadees, wrens, titmice and juncos.
This plant has so many familiar names like Cup Plant, Prairie Dock, Compass Plant. Daisylike flowers are quite a sight in your garden when the flowers bloom at the pinnacle of their tall stems. Such birds as finches can’t resist their seed as they dry out.
If you’ve grown zinnia and collected its seeds, you know how many there are in each flower. A single plant can keep sparrows or goldfinches busy for an afternoon. Other annuals to keep around for seed include impatiens and autumn marigolds.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping local gardeners attract more birds into the gardens here at Watters Garden Center.