As summer drifts away and gives way to autumn, many of us want to clean up the yard and make it tidy for the coming winter. Neat and tidy is great for closets, but if you want to help birds out, just let it all go to seed – literally and figuratively! Birds are now facing the rigors of fall migration, and having to deal with hurricanes, crazy weather or smoke and fires, depending on where they are. In fall, insects, fruit and seeds are king for birds – whether residents looking for sustenance, or migrants passing through with an immediate need to find food. Here are some ways you can benefit the birds who find you this fall:
- Leave part of your lawn unmowed and let the grass start seeding. Soon you will find sparrows who just migrated in hopping all over that unmowed patch of grass nibbling at the tiny seeds you left for them.
- Don’t trim the seed pods of flowering plants, or yank spent vegetable plants out of the ground. Your non-maintained flower and vegetable beds will be magnets for birds finding not just seeds but all sorts of insects they need.
- Keep feeders up, cleaned and filled, but let nature take over your garden and produce its own wide variety of seeds and fruits. If hawks are staking out and picking birds off your feeders, take them down to avoid artificially stacking the deck against songbirds.
- If you need to dispose of limbs or branches which have been downed or trimmed back, add these to your brush pile. If you don’t have one yet, this is one of the most important items for shelter in your yard for birds and all sorts of wildlife this coming winter. A good pile of brush can break the cold wind, shelter birds from rain and snow, and give cover when a predator flies overhead.
- Keep fruits and berries on bushes – even the waxy kind! Some birds like Catbirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers can digest even the waxy ones. The juicy fruits from ivy, pokeweed, or any native shrub or tree will be a lifeline later in the year for birds struggling to find food.
- Leaves are an unexpected treasure trove, so let them stay on the ground. When you rake up leaves, you are also getting rid of insects and larvae – which are excellent food for birds. Plus, the eggs that don’t get eaten will reappear next spring as insects for birds. And, leaves help insulate the roots of plants and trees against the elements during tough winters.
- Fall is also a good time to plant native trees so they can get their root system established over the winter. Check out which trees are native to your area and will give birds fruits.
- Don’t forget the water! Regardless of the season birds need water to hydrate and keep their feathers in top condition. Clean fresh water isn’t always easy to find, and making it available in your yard makes it more alluring to birds.