Last weekend my kids had the chance to make Valentine’s gifts for the birds with their Grammy. Inspired by a recipe from Birds and Blooms that uses basic kitchen staples for ingredients, they crafted heart-shaped birdseed ornaments to hang out in our yard. Not only did they have fun and get their hands messy, it also gave me an opportunity to share with them why birds are important in our garden (since my husband asked why I was writing a gardening blog about feeding birds).
Birds are more than just a pretty addition to look at and listen to in the garden. Birds have jobs too. Consumption of insects is one of the benefits that first pops into my mind. Although they may not discriminate, eating both beneficial and harmful insects, I for one am thankful for any creature that helps make a dent in the mosquito population in my yard or eats the wood-boring insects out of my trees.
They also are important for seed dispersal and play a role in the survival of native plant species. They consume the fruits and then drop the seeds in their own little pile of fertilizer in new locations. I am always happy to see a new beautyberry shrub popping up in our landscape thanks to the hard work of one of our feathered friends. Some birds even help with pollination and therefore play a key role in making the new plants in addition to offering their transportation services.
After we hung our new bird feeders (making sure they were high enough to keep out of neighbor’s cat’s reach), we sat back to watch for birds. So far, we have not had a lot of visitors to our feeders – but since we still have not had a freeze in our neck of the woods this year, the insects are plentiful (unfortunately), and the yaupon holly berries and the sweet gum seeds are still around, so we have a lot of competition. Regardless, it was a fun indoor activity that led us outside and provided the opening for the kids to engage in and gain an appreciation for nature.
Here are links to articles on Kidsgardening.org with additional bird feeder ideas and information to guide your winter bird observation activities: