For birds and bird watchers alike, the summer months are the richest. For bird watchers, the hardy birds that stuck around through the cold, lean days of winter are still around, now joined by their migrating relatives. For birds, the world is alive with buzzing insects, fruiting shrubs and trees, flowers dripping with nectar and bursting with seed. The leafy shade of trees provides protection against predators and summer storms.
Natural sources of bird food are so abundant during the summer months that many bird lovers take down their feeders and put them away for the season to save money. The birds will appreciate it if you don’t, of course, but feeders are not the only way of providing food for birds. In fact, they’ll appreciate it even more if you lay them out a smorgasbord of natural foods!
Summer-Fruiting Trees and Shrubs
Summer-fruiting trees and shrubs do double duty for birds in summertime. First, different birds have different preferences for nesting and foraging heights. Planting a mix of several different species of trees and shrubs of various heights, mixed with open areas and flower beds, will bring the greatest variety of birds to your yard.
Second, the fruits and berries will provide food for many species of fruit-loving birds, including the flamboyant Baltimore Oriole and its western relative, the Bullock’s Oriole, both backyard favorites. Other birds that love a good fruit snack include robins, thrushes, waxwings, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, cardinals, and towhees.
Good choices include:
- serviceberry (Amelanchier)
- mulberry (Morus)
- cherry (Prunus)
- elderberry (Sambucus)
- plum (Prunus)
- grape (Vitis)
- blueberry (Vaccinium)
- blackberry (Rubus)
- citrus (if you don’t live in an area where citrus can grow, putting out orange halves works just as well)
Many of these plants will also provide a tasty treat for the local humans, as well as adding shade and beauty to your yard. Not only that, but well-placed trees and shrubs can significantly reduce your family’s air conditioning bill!
Insectary plants are those that attract large numbers of insects. Although insects are most important as a food source for birds in spring, when growing baby birds need the high levels of protein and energy provided by insect prey, they remain an important source of food during the summer months. Insectary plants will attract not only birds but also other insect predators such as ladybugs and lacewings to your garden.
Many common plants are insectary plants, including dill, parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace, clover, yarrow, mint, thyme, daisy, chamomile, mustard, aster, sunflower, goldenrod, alfalfa, buckwheat, and elderberry.
Just as humans get thirstier in the hot summer months, so do birds. Be sure to provide a source of fresh, clean water for birds at all times.
Many birds are especially attracted by the sound of running or dripping water. This can be as elaborate as a backyard pond with a running stream or as simple as a slowly dripping milk jug suspended over a platter.
You can also provide natural water sources by planting plants with large leaves that will collect and pool rainwater and morning dew. A native wildflower called the Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is a perfect choice for this job. Not only do its deep leaves collect rainwater, the copious amounts of sunflower-like flowers produce lots of seeds, and the plant’s large leaves and tough stems provide shelter. Other plants that can collect and pool water include several common garden plants, such as leaf lettuce and broccoli.
By choosing bird-friendly plants and providing a steady source of clean water for drinking and bathing, you can be sure of attracting plenty of birds to fill your yard with life and beauty all summer.
For pictures of some of the plants mentioned in this article, check out my Bird Gardening board on Pinterest.