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February 7, 2012

Attract bug-eating birds to your garden

-by Debra Anchors

American Robin 
In lieu of using pesticides to rid your plants of damaging insects, why not employ one of nature’s insecticides in your garden – birds?  A healthy population of birds can be the best friend a gardener or farmer can have.

How effective are birds in ridding your garden of unwanted pests? Consider an 1885 United States Bureau of Biological Survey study of the eating habits of wild birds. In the extensive study, the stomach contents of over sixty thousand birds of over 400 species were examined and analyzed. The results are fascinating.

Scarlet tanagers were observed in the field eating 35 gypsy moth caterpillars per minute, Nashville warblers ate three tent caterpillars per minute, and an impressive 89 plant lice per minute were consumed by one tiny yellowthroat.

When the stomach contents of a rose-breasted grosbeak were examined scientists found the remains of 14 potato bugs.  A downy woodpecker had consumed 18 codling-moth larvae, a red-winged blackbird 28 cutworms, a robin 270 larvae of March-flies, and a flicker 5,000 ants.

Aren’t the quantities and diversity of harmful insects consumed amazing? Unbelievable?

Downy woodpeckers were observed eating up to 43 species of insects, horned larks 60, flickers 89, wood pewees 131, robins 223, cardinals 81, bluebirds 166, phoebes 121 and nighthawks an incredible 600 species.

It is relatively easy to attract helpful species of birds to your landscape; listed here are a few ways to lure birds into your garden:
  • Situate birdbaths throughout your garden, but do not set them near bushes that provide cover for cats.  Keep birdbaths clean and filled with fresh water.
  • If possible, provide a running fountain or trickle of water into a shallow basin.  Both the sound and the movement will attract the birds (avian misters are available in nurseries, bird stores and online).
  • Mulch.  A protective layer of mulch thwarts weeds, conserves moisture, and entices bugs.  You’ll find lots of birds poking through and under your mulch for critters.
  • Avoid using pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.  Poisons will destroy the beneficial soil dwellers and may sicken or even kill the birds.
The 5-minute video embedded below is a wonderful teaching tool for children.

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  1. Hi, Debra! Great post...
    I love when I have a bird in my garden. I have some flowers that atract the butterfly, they are so beaultiful.
    Kisses for you, dear.

  2. Hi, I came to wish Kim happy birthday from the email notice from blotanical. I haven't been here in awhile, so I decided to check my messages. I saw a note from you, so came to see your blog. I love this post! I try to encourage birds, too, and do not use pesticides, either. My favorite part of the post was how many and what kinds of insects the different kinds of birds eat.

  3. What a wonderful posting. It is always best to use nature to help us in the garden. I love feeding and planting for the critters in my gardens.

  4. Sometimes I think I enjoy the birds as much as the plants in my garden - I can't imagine a garden without birds. I love them all the more knowing that they're eating all those bugs!

  5. I have a lot of birds in my garden and offer several birdbaths as well as different types of seed. My heated birdbath is popular in the winter. I had some mourning doves warming their feet on the edges of it the other day. :o) Thanks for the reminder about adding running water. I'm going to add a solar powered bubbler to one of my birdbaths this summer.

  6. Birds are such a cheerful and useful addition to the garden! Now if I could just tell them which bugs I want them to focus on..

  7. This was a great post! Thanks for sharing.

  8. What I really need is a bird that eats squirrels...

  9. Thanks for the tips. I'm starting to appreciate creating life in our yard, and birds are the most fun to watch!

  10. Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping in, Naturworx! Please return for another visit soon. -Debra


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