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.
In this area, Wrens are the easiest
bird to attract …they may already be in your yard in fact. I’m talking about
the kinds of Wren native to north Texas,
not the House Wren that’s inundated many other areas. Inviting Wrens into your
landscape is relatively simple, because they’re often attracted by the way we
Our native Wrens are the Carolina
Wren and the Bewick’s Wren. They look pretty much alike, but the Bewick’s (pronounced like “Buick”) is gray, not
tan like the Carolina Wren. They’re both slightly huskier than other Wrens, and
probably won’t be able to get in a “one-size-fits-all” birdhouse sold by many big-box stores, which are sized for a House Wren. Their tails
tilt upward (unlike most birds) and they flit about nervously (as if they’ve
had too much caffeine). They’re also very loud!
Wrens have shared living space with
humans for ages.They’ve learned to use our
houses, garages, vehicles and tools as homes and breeding places, although they
prefer old woodpecker holes, birdhouses, or a dark, natural cavity. If nothing
else is available, they’ll construct their own home – a globular cave of
sticks, grasses and leaves with a small entry hole on the side.
They’ll make their nests in unusual,
unlikely places. Last year, a Wren built a nest in a hanging basket I had up. Until
the nestlings fledged, we watered the basket with ice cubes...they melted
slowly enough not to saturate the nest.
It’s not just housing that attracts
them; it’s also the countless spiders and other insects found in the exterior
nooks and crannies of all homes. These insects are its food supply – Wrens rarely
eat seed. The slender bill is slightly curved, enabling them to grab and
retrieve food that’s beyond the reach of most other birds.
Of course, some of us are better at
attracting Wrens than others. For example: if you spend hours manicuring and
weeding your yard and spraying for bugs (or having it done) you probably aren’t
inviting Wrens. If, however, you let brush piles accumulate, and let vegetation
grow naturally, you can almost be certain of attracting Wrens – no matter if
your lot is big or small.
That’s the first key to attracting
Wrens; having plenty of nest-building material around.Small twigs, long grasses; even fur from
brushing a family pet. In this area, tall, native grasses (at least 1 ft.),
coral honeysuckle and holly shrubs work nicely.
The second key is a brushpile; just
a random mound of branches with lots of “cubby holes” on the inside. In the
winter, it’s a comparatively warm and sheltered place to “roost” during bad
weather. All year ‘round, a brushpile provides safety from the many animals
that would like to have a Wren for dinner. The brushpile encourages the growth
of some insects, which Wrens keep under control as they dine.
Water is essential year ‘round too.
A shallow birdbath (2” at most) is ideal. Wrens like to poke around among the
leaves at the edge of a shallow water body – that’s where the insects and tiny
snails are. A bit of “messy” vegetation on the ground near a birdbath simulates
this. Since most yards around here aren’t 100% debris-free 100% of the time,
they make ideal homes for our native Wrens.
YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect
emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is a
recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas,
and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA),
International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation
and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net
Cardinals are among the prettiest of north Texas birds - especially in the winter, when there's a paucity of outside color. To achieve their natural color, they need to eat plenty of nutritious seed.
Cardinals, however, have a problem. They can't turn their heads easily. Their natural "eating position" is head/neck straight, and food in front of them. They can adjust somewhat to a traditional perch, but it's not easy for them. They also have a little trouble perching securely, whereas most other birds can clamp tightly onto a feeder or other perch.
So if you want your yard to become a Cardinal hangout (in our yard we usually have at least 6 at a time) I recommend having seed feeders that respond to their physical differences. Like a tray feeder or hopper feeder (pictured) or any of several other feeder types available that doesn't discriminate.
What cutting down all dead trees
means It means that lots of birds will go homeless and will face the full brunt of winter. “Cavity-nesters” are kinds of birds that roost and nest primarily in
old holes in trees. Usually, the holes were made originally by a Woodpecker.
Examples locally are Chickadees, Titmice, Bluebirds and Wrens. When dead
and dying trees are totally removed (cut almost to the ground), it reduces the
number of potential nesting sites…and eventually the number of birds.