What Can a Little Birdie Do for You?

Sometimes, gardens are literally for the birds! You can plant your garden with individual flowers matched to specific types of birds, or you can let your garden grow wild, in which case you’ll attract all kinds of feathered friends. Why bother beckoning birds? It’s not only because winged wonders are pretty to look at (although that’s reason enough in my book); they also provide plenty of practical benefits, including these:

Control pests. Hummingbirds and many songbirds dine on destructive and disease-spreading insects, as well as insect eggs and larvae.

Increase your harvest. Fruit trees and bushes, as well as many vegetables, cannot produce crops unless their blossoms receive pollen from other flowers. Some plants are pollinated by the wind, but a great many others depend on birds and good-guy insects, like butterflies, to deliver their pollen supply.

Enrich your life. With a wildlife habitat in your yard (or even a bird feeder on your balcony), you’ll have a front-row seat to pursue such leisure activities as drawing, photography, and bird-watching.

Improve your health. Study after study has shown that spending time communing with animals improves people’s mental and physical health — and even increases their productivity at work.

Here are a few guidelines to welcoming your new wild friends:

1.   Don’t use pesticides. They’ll kill off the insects that are a big part of your guest’s food supply.
2.   Diversify your portfolio. The more kinds of trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs, and even vegetables and fruits you plant, the more kinds of birds and other beneficial wildlife you’ll attract to your yard.
3.   Go native. The best way to issue an invitation to wildlife — bar none — is to plant species that are native to your little corner of the world. How come? Because they attract the kinds of wildlife that are also native to your area.