Local group offers tips for creating bird-friendly gardens

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From birdhouses to salvaging tree stumps, residents can provide attractive places for birds: Sustainable Orillia

Mike Jones, Sustainable Orillia’s most dedicated ‘birder’, shares more ideas on how to create a bird-friendly garden, part of Sustainable Orillia’s ongoing series to help Orillia become a city bird-friendly.

Nesting season is in full swing in Orillia. Many species such as owls, starlings, ducks and geese have already fledged and left the nest, while robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds follow close behind.

The warblers all but stopped singing early in the morning, signaling that their courtship songs were successful in attracting mates. They are now focusing on finding a suitable nesting site and materials. American goldfinches are late nesters. They were once thought to postpone nesting until the thistles bloom in August so they can use the soft thistle to line their nests. However, since they are seed-eaters, August is more likely to be a time when the seeds needed to feed their young are available in abundance.

Birds are very careful in choosing sites and building nests. Over the past few weeks, your garden has been combed through as nesting birds search for the perfect nest liners.

A word of advice: if you’re grooming your dog or cat, leave the fur or fur in the garden during the nesting period and it won’t stay there for long. The same goes for human hair, although there was a time when it was not encouraged. Your great-grandmother may have carefully placed her combed hair in a “Victorian hairdresser”, a small crystal jar. The superstition at the time was that if the combs were used for bird’s nests, “grandma” would get a headache, so they were carefully collected and burned. Actions such as putting away your dog’s combs or leftover twine or yarn – no matter how small they may seem – help make your garden more bird-friendly.

Birds can surprise us with their choice of nesting materials. We once brought home some hanging planters with an inner coir basket and quickly discovered that the fiber lining of our planters had taken on a disheveled and messy appearance. We were puzzled as to how it happened, but we finally caught the culprits in the act – the northern orioles.

Orioles are the ultimate structural engineers of the avian world. Their gourd-shaped nests hang from the highest branches – branches so thin that they won’t support the weight of potential predators. Our baskets had provided the perfect nesting material – lightweight, yet tensile enough to withstand summer winds and the weight of mother and chicks.

You may well have an oriole nest hidden among the dense foliage of a tree in your yard. Look up in the fall, when the leaves have fallen, and you might be able to see one.

Location is all with nests. The quieter, the more hidden, the better. In the attached image of the oriole, there is a nest box located at the top left. No self-respecting bird will nest in a box so close to an active feeding station.

However, in low traffic areas, dense foliage of trees or shrubs, lightly trimmed cedar hedges, even in brush piles, the nests will be there. In most cases, you’ll never know where they are, because nesting birds are so surreptitious in getting in and out of their nests.

Blackbirds, Eastern Phoebes and Wrens are a little more trusting and will nest closer to humans, on a windowsill or even in or above a mailbox if there is no A lot of traffic. Robins will appreciate a nesting platform located on a north-facing wall, not too high above the ground and not near a tree or where squirrels can go.

Let’s talk about “cavity nesters” and how we could help them find suitable nesting sites in our gardens. Orillia is blessed with all the woodpeckers found in Ontario: Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, and even the occasional black-backed woodpecker. Chickadees, nuthatches, tree swallows, wrens, crested flycatchers, some owls, wood ducks and several invasive species such as starlings and house sparrows also compete for a good cavity to nest.

The best and most natural way to help cavity nesters is to be very judicious about the trees we cut down on our properties. When you have to fell a tree, if part of the trunk can be safely left behind, it will provide cavities for nesting species and a food source in the form of insects as it slowly decomposes.

Birdhouses help cavity nesters in their search for homes. A good birdhouse should mimic a hole in a tree as much as possible. It must not be made of finished wood, nor be stained or painted.

Cavity nesters have claws developed for clinging to tree bark, so they do not need a perch or landing platform below the entrance hole. On the other hand, nest-stealing predatory birds such as blue jays, grackles, and crows do not have hooked claws and love having a perch from which to reach and extract eggs or nestlings.

The eastern strain of purple swallows appears to have lost its ability to nest anywhere except in artificial nest boxes provided by humans. To add to their woes, being migratory, they often lose out to year-round resident starlings which often commandeer their nesting sites just as the martins return from the south.

Birdhouses can be easily and inexpensively made by anyone with rudimentary carpentry knowledge. Information on box and entry hole size for various bird species can be found online at sites such as the Canadian Wildlife Federation (www.cwf-fcf.org) or Sialis (www. .sialis.org/nestboxguide.htm). We will talk more specifically about birdhouses in a future article.

Now you might think helping the birds is great, but you might also be thinking, “What? You don’t mow my lawn? Do not use pesticides or fertilize? Leave dead trees standing? Let my garden get messier? Certainly not! What would our neighbors say?

Unless you have a larger property or garden, I completely understand and don’t expect anyone to convert their garden to the equivalent of Scout Valley or Grant’s Woods. However, any good garden, no matter how formal, no matter how small, has a naturalized place.

Perhaps it is hidden behind an outbuilding or in a working area of ​​the garden near a composting facility or a raised vegetable bed. Formality or cleanliness is not an issue here. It’s your private, peaceful space where you can walk around and be alone with your thoughts. Maybe even a spiritual regeneration zone. Could this become your favorite part of your garden?

Chances are, this is already the most bird-friendly part of your garden.

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