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.
Birds prefer familiar,
native plants for nests.More and more,
however, the fields and forests where they used to get it are largely gone.
Much of the fault is our
tendency to “clean up” yards.We rake,
sweep and weedeat until most natural nest material is in a plastic bag, headed
to a landfill.
Recently a good friend
brought me some old nests (a strange but welcome gift) and I analyzed their
contents. About 80% of it was small twigs and bits of leaves. Another 15%
(approximately) was lichens, bits of cobwebs, and stalks of native grasses.
Only a very small part was artificial things like string or yarn.
These particular nests
came from an area with lots of trees. Nests in meadows, conversely, will
probably have a much higher percentage of native grasses. So, the local
environment of the nest-builder is important, but unnatural materials (like old
Xmas tinsel) play a very small part.
When available, birds
seem to like fur/hair (whether from a coyote or your pet terrier – it doesn’t
matter). Nor do they seem to care about the origin of the box or platform they
build their nests on. Swallows may seek out an exterior beam of your house, and
“cavity-dwelling” birds actually prefer artificial boxes, since the stay
The nests themselves,
however, are largely natural materials – probably because wild birds
genetically recognize them.The typical
mowed lawn is a very unattractive and sterile habitat for most birds, and isn’t
found naturally anywhere on earth. Besides, an open, manicured lawn is a
terrible place for a bird to build a nest They prefer privacy.
favorite native grasses for nests are bluestem, muhly, threeawn and gramma
(left standing through the winter). Also, birds often use thin strips of bark
from many types of trees native to the Denton area.Thin bark stripped from young trees (like
eve’s necklace, Mexican plum, redbud, red cedar, roughleaf dogwood or cedar elm)
are sought by birds. Also, small chips of bark (oaks are a favorite) are used
to cushion the bottoms of nests.
We’ve been invaded!!!! Very soon, lawns through north Texas will be invaded by a
small, purple-flowered weed that will make homeowners freak out, and give lots of
money to lawn services and garden shops. There’s no need. It’s just Henbit, and
it will disappear on its own in a week or two.
Henbit is an annual weed that grows in the late winter and early
spring. It needs cool weather, but dies completely when the temperature gets
warm, which it surely will.
The best way to control it is with your
It only reproduces by seed, and cutting your lawn regularly doesn’t
let the plant make seed (although seeds for
next year may blow in from elsewhere). Spending money on weed killers is pointless,
since it will disappear by itself soon.
Owen Yost, in
addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, who‘s
worked in north Texas for over 30 years.He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA),
International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding
Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored
with a Lifetime Achievementaward by the
Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at email@example.com