Gardening for Wildlife – I Have a Magic Bird Feeder

Illustration by Ann Litrel of Native Birds and Berries to use in gardening with wildlife

My Magic Birdfeeder fills itself. What’s more, it gets bigger and holds more food every year. And to top it off, this feeder sustains not only birds, but caterpillars and beneficial insects as well, which also feed baby birds.

The magic birdfeeder is my yard. This small suburban plot is just 3/8th of an acre. But around the edges of the tree islands grow a cornucopia of berry-producing shrubs and trees which feed birds all year round.

A Calendar of Magic Moments

February Holly calls to the cedar waxwings migrating overhead. They descend by the hundreds to feast on the berries before they continue north. One day next month, I’ll hear the riotous noise and rush to the window to see the masked invaders – elegant but greedy, swarming to strip every bit of red before they move on. It’s one of my favorite “spring” days.

June Blueberries attract pairs of robins and thrashers each summer. As they hunt caterpillars for their babies, they sneak away to feed on the sweet fruit. A half dozen blueberry bushes grace my front yard with pink blossoms in spring, bright red leaves in the fall.

September Beautyberries feed the catbirds and cardinals with clusters of bright purple berries as decorative as any flowers. This shrub, an American native, has the added bonus of being deer resistant.

October Dogwoods bear bright red berries, with red fall foliage which signals to birds that the highly nutritious fruit is ripe. The berries are quickly eaten by both residents and migrants headed south.

December Viburnum is mostly bare, but a few dark berries linger to feed the hungry. Mapleleaf viburnum bears thrillingly colored leaves which turn right at Thanksgiving. I time their pruning to use the branches in my Thanksgiving table arrangements.

Jump Start the Magic

  1. Find a Spot

There is no need to re-landscape your whole yard – start small! Treat yourself and choose a planting spot where you can enjoy the view from a window. Achieve economy and a natural look by purchasing smaller plants and grouping them in multiples of 3  (3, 6, 9, etc.) Pick a spot with at least some sun to ensure berry production for the birds.

  1. Choose a Native

Many berry plants have both native and nonnative varieties. Choose a native variety whenever possible – it has the added bonus of being adapted to feed not only our local birds, but caterpillars and insects which are the primary food source for their babies.

Research bird-friendly plant choices on Audubon’s website.

The Georgia Native Plant Society publishes lists of native plants as well as resources, local and online nurseries, where they can be purchased. GNPS Sources for Native Plants 

Avoid patented hybrids from commercial nurseries – many times these varieties have been bred for looks only and are not as good for birds and wildlife. Mother Nature knows best!

  1. Add More Magic Each Year

I cannot recommend enough the very enlightening book “The Living Landscape” by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy. Fabulous photos provide a road map for landscaping with native plants using traditional principles – creating beauty and biodiversity in your yard for a far greater number of native birds, pollinators, and wildlife.

Just by adding a few plants each year, you’ll be on your way to creating a self-filling, ever-growing, multi-colored Magic Birdfeeder of your own – one which will last for generations to come.


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