Guest Gardening Bloggers

Gardening For The Birds!

By Rebecca Nickols | February 17, 2016
Image by Rebecca Nickols

Gardening For The Birds!

by Rebecca Nickols February 17, 2016

Gardening For The Birds!

By Rebecca Nickols | February 17, 2016

This week’s gardening guest blogger is Rebecca Nickols.  Since becoming a Master Gardener in 2007, Rebecca’s gardening interests have been increasingly focused on creating and protecting wildlife habitats. At her 7 acre property in Southwest Missouri, her garden includes an ever-expanding kitchen garden, berry beds, and a large butterfly garden. Rebecca and her husband, Jeff, are also vendors (Rebecca’s Bird Gardens) at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks during the spring and summer months where they sell living-roof birdhouses, living wreaths, vertical gardens and an assortment of rustic birdhouses and feeders utilizing recycled materials.

Also, be sure to enter the giveaway on this blog for a glass bottle bird feeder! Details are below!

Bird watching and gardening are two hobbies that can easily coexist. With the popularity of organic gardening increasing, many gardeners are looking for a way to control weeds and insects from taking over their landscape and birds are one solution to a chemical free garden. Of course if you avoid insecticides, pesticides and herbicides, you’ll have an abundance of insects and weeds, but fortunately birds love seeds – including weed seeds – and many species (such as bluebirds) rely on insects as their main food source. Even birds that are primarily seed eaters, will feed insects to their newly hatched nestlings. Protecting the natural food sources of birds will attract twice as many species to your landscape than if you relied solely on purchased birdseed and feeders.

FinchFlowers9 Providing your local birds with their top favorites in native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ground covers will also attract a larger variety of birds to your gardens. Visit a nearby conservation center for a list of plants that are indigenous to your area. Providing a water source – bird bath, fountain, water garden – will also increase your chance of viewing a variety of birds that are not attracted to feeders.
Planting annual sunflowers are also a cheap easy way to attract birds to your gardens. In 1980 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a landmark study (conducted by Aelred D. Geis) of bird food preferences. Black oil sunflower seeds were by far the most preferred type of birdseed and attracted the greatest number of bird species. I’ve planted several varieties of sunflowers over the years and it seems they’re attracted to any color, size or height. To get a few closer shots of the locals enjoying the harvest, I take a few fading sunflowers and offer them as a homegrown bird feeder. SunflowerFinch

Of course the best way to increase the amount of birds visiting your property, is to garden for the birds, but to get those close-up views you’ll want to offer a variety of birdseed and bird feeder options. Set up your feeder in a place where it is easy to see and convenient to refill. Window collisions are often fatal to small birds and feeders should be placed either very close to the window (less than three feet) or much further away (greater than 10 feet). Feeders located about 10-15 feet from a natural shelter such as trees or shrubs offer resting places for birds between feedings and provide a quick escape from predators. Black-oil sunflower seed (as mentioned above) is the best all-around choice for attracting a wide variety of birds. Finches, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, nuthatches and many other common feeder birds readily consume black-oil sunflower. Safflower isn’t a favorite of every bird (cardinals’ love it!), but if you’re having trouble with non-native starlings at your feeders you might switch to this seed. Millet is a favorite of many ground feeding birds including sparrows, doves, and juncos. Corn, either whole or cracked, is attractive to pigeons and doves. Nyjer or thistle is another common seed that is favored by finches.

Even though I do garden to attract birds to my landscape, my husband and I have a small market and online business in which we sell a variety of birdhouses and bird feeders – many of which utilize repurposed or vintage materials. I invite you to visit our website – Rebecca’s Bird Gardens and follow our Facebook page (Rebecca’s Bird Gardens – Facebook).

bistro4 Leave a comment below – include your email address – and you’ll be entered in a giveaway for one of our glass bottle bird feeders, “The Bistro“! Each feeder is unique – a repurposed glass bottle, copper wire, decorative accents and a removable base adapter. Leave your comment on this blog post by midnight on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. See Rules for more information! Good luck!

UPDATE 4/15/2016: Congratulations to Susan McQueeney, the winner of the glass bottle bird feeder!


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    Taylor Bishop
    Comment added June 29, 2017Reply

    These are some very good tips! I was actually unaware that so many birds consume black-oil sunflower seeds, or that feeders could be placed very close to a window. This summer, I have been very anxious to try to get birds to visit my property, and learning these tips has been extremely informative. Thank you!

    Susan Matthews
    Comment added March 25, 2017Reply

    This looks like the perfect solution-- I need a feeder that is too small for the voracious black birds invading my yard!

    Carol Sarabun
    Comment added February 12, 2017Reply

    Since I have retired, gardening and birdwatching have become my favorite activities. I am constantly amazed by natures variety in birds, butterflies and flowers. We keep many birdfeeders at different times of the year and I am always fascinated by the action.

    Comment added January 29, 2017Reply

    This is Really cute feeder. I have been trying to put more up but I'll have to put stakes up or feeder hangers staked in the ground. I would like to see more bird's in the yard. I love bird watching
    Only down fall is when my dogs get to come out, they like to chase them away.

    Comment added January 25, 2017Reply

    Nice Ideas! With these garden will look more beautiful.

    Carla McLeod
    Comment added November 6, 2016Reply

    I love the idea that you repurpose...and your other bird houses are delightful. While I've always gardened a bit, I'm becoming a more avid gardener, and interested in supporting the bees, butterflies, "good" insects and birds (and squirrels) all while keeping deer out of our garden! Do your taller and narrow houses accommodate a specific species of bird, or any smaller ones? I live on the SW Washington (state) coast...

    Tara Allen
    Comment added March 18, 2016Reply

    Getting a unique bird feeder for the yard sounds like a fun way to attract a few birds to watch. I am glad to know that birds enjoy eating seeds. I will have to look around at the many different bird feeder options and find on that will look cute in my garden.

    james jenkins
    Comment added February 25, 2016Reply

    Wehave humming birds, so I hope these work for them!

    Comment added February 25, 2016Reply

    would love to win this I love my birds so much...
    hebb dot julie at gmail dot com

    Angela Newsome
    Comment added February 25, 2016Reply

    My mom would love these

    John H.
    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    I am hoping to win - I think that it's great and I would like it for my house!

    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    This would be great for the yard.

    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    I would love to have this feeder. I have just started feeding and enjoying the birds at my home. Thank you.

    Chris Reed
    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    Like the reuse of materials to give back to nature, excellent job.

    Georgann Dreher
    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    How clever.It will be good for small seeds.

    Jennifer H.
    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    I would love to win this for my backyard!

    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    I am just starting to build up my garden. This year I have a greenhouse to really make the jump. I have one seed feeder and one hummingbird feeder, and I would love to add more feeders. I have spent the winter doting on the birds that I do have visiting.

    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    Really insightful post and a lovely bird feeder - matches my upcycled flower vase in my conservatory!

    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply


    Heidi Salisbury
    Comment added February 24, 2016Reply

    Would love to win this for my backyard. I enjoy feeding the birds.

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