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Saturday, March 30, 2013

How to attract Indigo Buntings to your north Texas yard

Indigo Bunting (male)

Before long, the Indigo Bunting will arrive in north Texas (early April), having spent fall and winter in southern Central America and Cuba.  Unlike most songbirds, the male Indigo Bunting often carols at mid-day. He's proclaiming his territory. He will sing his way from the bottom of a tree to the top, going up branch-by-branch until reaching the top.

Since all buntings eat insects primarily, they avoid yards that use insecticides liberally. Actually, the influx of "yards" helps the population grow.

Painted Bunting (male)
They prefer the edges of landscaped areas (thick vegetation on one side, open area on the other). Since a "yard" has four edges, buntings have more habitat to live in. (Of course this doesn't apply if there's a huge concentration of contiguous yards, or a busy thorofare in front). So there are certainly more buntings around now than in pre-Columbian days, even the colorful Painted Bunting.

To attract them, make sure you have at least one birdbath. In warm weather, a birdbath is a must!  Also, a mass of seed-laden native prairie grasses (like bluestem, or muhlygrass) should be planted. Since buntings occasionally eat seed, have at least one feeder available. And don't overdo the insecticides!

A key reason why birds prefer native plants Many birds eat bugs. Also, almost all birds feed bugs to their babies. Without bugs around, birds will simply go elsewhere, or starve. (They normally keep insect populations in control naturally). Many of the non-native “bug-free” plants sold are impossible for our insects to digest. (That's why they're insect-free). So no birds, in search of bugs, will hang around them. These include privet, Bradford pear, nandina and English ivy. Don't buy them! They have other "downsides" too. If you want to attract birds to your yard – plant native plants. Only! Birds will then be around to chow down on any bug overpopulation.


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