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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Birds and landscaping; the new normal in the 21st Century

American Robin

Scarlet Tanager

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 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: Native 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.