Georgia Wild E-Newsletter
Feed birds with flowers in fall
By Terry W. Johnson
The stress of the long, hot summer is beginning to show on the flowers in my backyard. For weeks, the zinnias, salvias, coneflowers and a host of others along with untold numbers of hummingbirds and butterflies attracted to them have treated my family to a veritable kaleidoscope of color. Knowing that soon the flowers time will be over, I must admit that I am filled with mixed emotions. Hummingbirds are departing in droves. As the flowers continue to wither and die, the butterflies will also disappear.
Meanwhile, I also realize that the flowers that fed nectar feeders throughout the summer will continue to attract and feed a host of birds if I don't do anything at all.
As amazing as that may seem, leaving flowers standing after they have gone to seed is a great way to feed birds. However, for some reason, we backyard gardeners learn someplace along the way that good gardeners cut down flowers at the end of the growing season. Consequently, this form of bird feeding is not practiced in most backyards.
This fall, when temperatures plummet and Jack Frost makes his first visit, blanketing our gardens with white, resist the temptation to cut down the flowers that were killed by the frost. Instead, sit back and watch. Soon you will see goldfinches and a host of other seed-eating birds bending the brown plant stalks down as they delicately remove the nutritious seeds from brown, withered seed heads. These forays into your flower garden will continue until all of the seeds are eaten.
One lesson that I have learned is that birds don't follow our concept of when the seasons begin and end. For example most birds have passed through Georgia on their fall migration long before fall officially begins. Consequently, birds gobble up what we consider traditional fall and winter foods whenever they are available. For that reason, I have seen male goldfinches still bedecked in their bright yellow and black breeding plumage feeding on coneflower seed heads in August.
Here is a list of 10 popular flowering plants that produce seeds eaten by birds in Georgia backyards.
To those among us who complain about not having enough time in the day to get everything done, discovering that you can actually benefit the birds in your backyard without having to do anything should be comforting. I know it is for me.
Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, a noted backyard wildlife writer and expert, and executive director of TERN, the friends group for Wildlife Resources' Nongame Conservation Section. Read previous columns at www.georgiawildlife.com . Find out more about TERN at http://tern.homestead.com/ .
Georgia Wild E-Newsletter
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