Written by an area Landscape Architect and birdwatcher with over 30 years of experience with landscaping in north Texas: what works and what doesn't. Emphasis on attracting birds to north Texas yards, and reducing required yard maintenance. Tips, trivia and proven advice for a natural, low-cost approach for this unique and sensitive part of the country.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Birds and landscaping; the new normal in the 21st Century
We’re in the 21st century. Water
is scarce. Utility prices are rising fast. Undeveloped land is scarce. Science has made a ton of
discoveries about damaging artificial chemicals. We can adapt to this new reality without sacrificing all the little things that make life pleasant, like birds.
A few people in north Texas still try to
take care of their yards the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago...as if nothing has changed! But, clearly,
times have changed dramatically!
Several practical ideas have been crafted by
the Audubon Society, for landscape care in the reality of the 21st
century; which is "bird-attracting" also. (They’re not trying to sell you anything, so motives are honorable)
It’s doubtful if anyone can make the
changes overnight, so you might look at these items as long-term goals for over the next few years;
·Reduce your lawn’s size: Lawns are by far the biggest user of water and are a huge demand on your time and money. A manicured lawn, as we should all know, is avoided by birds. Just think about how much
of your valuable time is given to your lawn – getting it to grow, then cutting
it back. I’d bet you can reduce the size of your lawn by about 25% this season, and attract more birds! And lower utility bills.
·Plant native, Texas
plants are accustomed to our weather extremes, the drought, the heat and our miserable
excuse for soil. Texas birds are attracted by Texas plants because they know how they can be used. Foodwise, nesting wise, etc. There are hundreds of native plants – including at least one
that’s a thriving, rugged substitute for a troublesome BLANK you’ve been trying
to grow unsuccesfully for years.
·Use biological pest controls: Ninety-nine percent of the lawn chemicals sold have
effective (but unpatented) biological alternatives. Domestic ladybugs
and lacewings, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), pyrethrum, certain kinds of fungus,
beneficial nematodes, to name just a few, take care of pests the way nature
planned it. In addition; you could just prune out an infestation of insects, or use a blast from a hose to get insects off of a plant. Birds have a feeding frenzy with an overabundance of things like aphids or grasshoppers.
·Respect your neighbors: Notify your neighbors (and ask them to do likewise)
before using any pesticide or herbicide that could remain on vegetation, could drift in the
air to another yard, or could settle in water. Children and pets (and most
wildlife) are easily affected by pesticides, even if adults are not. Hopefully, most local
governments do this already.
·Leave room for wildlife: Make room in your yard for the birds, toads and
rabbits (and, yes, the armadillos, squirrels and raccoons too). They’re all
part of nature’s plan. Armadillos eat grubs, birds eat aphids, toads eat
mosquitoes and so forth. These creatures are just waiting to do for free what
we’ve been paying your hard-earned money to do artificially.
Make a genuine effort to adapt to, and live within the
current realities of the 21st century. Not the 1970s, 80s or 90s. You’ll spend less time, waste less
money, pollute the soil, air and water less, attract more songbirds and be a far better neighbor.