Attract birds and butterflies to your garden

Attract birds and butterflies to your garden

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Attract birds and butterflies to your garden

Birds and butterflies are a little like flowers on the wing. Though fleeting, their presence brings a beauty to your garden that nothing else can match. Cultivate a spot that invites them in to stay. It won't be the tidiest garden on the block, but one that has areas wet and dry, looks a little wild and has some weeds and flowers gone to seed. It will be a home for insects and earthworms, too (no harmful pesticides here), with something blooming from spring through fall. This welcoming place will keep birds and butterflies close till the change of seasons prompts most to move on.

How to attract birds to your garden
For me, one of my garden's most amusing attractions is a birdbath not far from the front porch. Birds visit almost every day, especially morning and evening, and especially during migration. Some of the most colourful small birds in my part of Ontario -- such as bluebirds, orioles and goldfinches -- partake regularly of this "spa."

Here are a few rules of birdbath location and care.

1. Place it where birds can spot possible predators, far enough from the house so birds will come to it and close enough so you can see them when they do.

2. Provide a perch nearby, such as a shrub, fence or even a branched stick.

3. Keep the basin filled with fresh water. In dry weather you'll need to fill it daily.

4. Keep it clean. Scrub it every few days.

Birdhouses and nesting sites may lure birds to stay all summer. Buy birdhouses or make your own. The size of the entrance hole determines what species will take up residence (a maximum size of 1-1/2 inches/3.8 centimetres accommodates most songbirds but keeps out nest-and-hatchling thieves such as starlings). Install birdhouses securely in a peaceful place. Some birds don't use them but make nests on building ledges, branches or in the knotholes of trees and fence posts.

How to feed birds in your garden
If you feed birds all winter, some, such as jays and chickadees, will stay throughout the year. For hummingbirds you can hang a feeder in the summer, but they will also visit many cultivated and wild flowers, especially those that are red and funnel-shaped. Other birds will come for insects, fruit and seeds.

Favoured by the insect eaters are airborne pests, such as mosquitoes and blackflies, and plant pests, including weevils and caterpillars. Trees and shrubs in declining health provide insects for woodpeckers and knotholes for nests, while an unraked spot under a large tree lets birds enjoy bugs hidden in the leaf litter. Elderberries, strawberries, saskatoons and cherries may be devoured by birds before you get your chance. Seedheads and rose hips left to ripen on their stalks are an attraction through winter. And shrubs and trees that hold seeds and fruit into fall -- such as crab apple, honeysuckle, pin cherry, chokeberry and dogwood -- will tempt migrating birds on their way south.

For the birds: Plant sources for food, nest sites or shelter
Plant/shrub/tree Bird
balsam fir grosbeak, purple finch
bee balm (Monarda didyma) hummingbird
beardtongue (Penstemon) hummingbird
birch pine siskin, American goldfinch
butternut chickadee, nuthatch
cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) hummingbird
cedar, red robin, cedar waxwing, bluebird
chokecherry, common catbird, brown thrasher, thrush
columbine (Aquilegia) hummingbird
coral bells, red-flowered (Heuchera sanguinea) hummingbird
crab apple robin, cedar waxwing, grosbeak
dogwood, flowering sapsucker, thrush
fuchsia hummingbird
hemlock, eastern pine siskin, American goldfinch, grosbeak
hickory nuthatch, towhee
honeysuckle (Lonicera) hummingbird, catbird, robin
hosta hummingbird
maple grosbeak, purple finch
mountain ash, American robin, brown thrasher, cedar waxwing
petunia hummingbird
pine, white chickadee, robin
rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) hummingbird
salvia hummingbird
scarlet runner (Kennedia prostrata) hummingbird
spruce pine siskin, nuthatch, crossbill

Page 1 of 2 --  Discover how you can attract beautiful butterflies to your garden on page 2
How to attract butterflies to you garden
Attracting both birds and butterflies presents a paradox: some of the former will dine happily on some of the latter, both adult and larvae. If your garden attracts butterflies, it will also attract birds. Like birds, butterflies have certain habitat preferences. Butterflies cannot fly in wind or rain; they prefer sunny and windless or gently breezy weather. A woodpile or brush pile gives them a place to hide and rest. Overwintering species, such as mourning cloaks, may hibernate in these shelters while other species fly south for the winter. Handmade butterfly houses are an interesting addition to the garden but are extremely unlikely to be used.

How to feed butterflies in your garden
Not all butterflies sip flower nectar -- some prefer sap or rotten fruit -- but those that do are particular. Weeds rate high in all provinces: vetches attract silvery blues, nettles bring in tortoiseshells and red admirals, and milkweeds attract monarchs. The subtle flowers of grasses attract many northern butterflies. Some plants attract several species. Lantana, a tender perennial, is a food source considered "second only to buddleia" by Rick Mikula, author of Garden Butterflies of North America (Willow Creek, 1997). Herbs in bloom are butterfly candy. Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), an easy perennial, is my favourite.

While all butterflies are pretty, not all are welcome. A good field guide for both their creeping-caterpillar and flying phases will help you sort out the harmful and harmless.

If you design your garden as a friendly place for these ephemeral creatures, endangered by dwindling habitats worldwide, you play your own small part in ensuring their survival. Treat the small universe of the garden kindly and you will be delighted with flowers that fly.

For the butterflies: Plant sources for food
Plant/shrub/tree Butterfly Province
aster northern pearl crescent all
butterfly bush (Buddleia) tiger swallowtail
anise swallowtail
butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) monarch all
coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) fritillary all
hollyhock (Alcea rosea) painted lady all
lantana (Lantana camara) anise swallowtail
spicebush swallowtail
nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) spring azure all
New England aster (A. novae-angliae) pearly crescentspot
checkered skipper
violet (Viola species) fritillary all
willow mourning cloak all

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Attract birds and butterflies to your garden