Gardening For The Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard by George Adams – Review (Timber Press).
Like most people, how little, it turns out, I know about birds. Especially the species that are most likely to be living in my backyard.
For tens of thousands of years, birds inhabited the lands we’ve now clear-cut for our living spaces. They lived in the trees and nested in the underbrush, evolving along with the local flora, eating and re-distributing seeds, sheltering and raising their nestlings. And they were essential to the success of farming – keeping insect and rodent populations in check, perpetually vigilant, living in the fields and tree lines that bordered the fields. In exchange the farmer accepted a small “shrinkage” in his corn, bean, or fruit harvest. A truly symbiotic relationship.
But with modern suburban development and industrial farming, bird habitat has shrunk to a sliver of what it once was. Some species failed to adapt to the new terrain, but those who did now must travel farther for food and compete to find nesting areas. Like any displaced population, they concentrate in high numbers in friendly habitats – sometimes to the chagrin of humans – and abandon areas which hold no promise. And when they leave, we’re not only deprived of their beauty and song, but also their tenacious insect control. In fact, when a garden and backyard is host to a variety of bird species, the need for insecticides is non-existent.
For these reasons and just for the sheer joy of it, George Adams , landscape designer, wildlife artist, photographer, and birdwatcher, wants everyone, especially gardeners, to make the yards that surround their homes more bird-friendly. Adams has written one heck of a good book, organized very smartly for those who might have just a casual interest in birds, and for those who want to create a habitat to attract specific species.
Lots of birds in your yard is a good thing
Every gardener learns that birds are a sign of a healthy garden. The novice may chase them away, but the veteran knows that if birds regularly seek food in your garden, it’s a healthy garden. Just like us, they live where the food is. They cause minimal disturbance to the plants, and who doesn’t love the music of birdsong at dawn and dusk?
As I’ve grown as an organic gardener, I’ve also grown as a birdwatcher. How much I’ve come to love the bright red Northern Cardinal that lives in my yard in the winter. Like a beautiful painting, when it’s perched on my split-rail fence against a backdrop of winter snow, it’s a sight I’m always thankful for. And when I discovered two Mallard ducks living in a Yew next to my house, well, I felt like a proud father. That is, after I got over the almost-heart attack when they flew out of the Yew in a cacophony of duck calls and beating wings.
Gardening For The Birds is a great reference book, with general guidelines for attracting birds and other pollinators, the best native plants for attracting birds region by region, and a substantial bird directory with how best to attract specific species to your backyard. It’s also loaded with tons of photographs to make identification of visiting birds quick and simple (how I dislike those text-only descriptions in other bird-watching books). In fact, Gardening For The Birds has already helped me make decisions about new shrubs and flowers I’ll plant next spring. I also discovered that planting a River Birch in my yard was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Buy it on Amazon: Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard