Fall is here and now is the best time to plant native plants for birds! Turning your yard into your own private bird watching habit is easy. Just add food, shelter and water. Native plants are an excellent choice for feeding birds the “natural way”, plus they are drought tolerant. No need for pesticides, California native plants are bug resistant and besides, the birds will be more than happy to take care of that problem for you!
A great local resource for Native Plants for birds — The Nature Center is holding their annual Native Plant Sale, October 13th, Friends Members Preview Sale is 9am to 9:30am, Public Sale is 9:30am to 2pm—arrive early for the best selection! Address is 7550 E Spring St., Long Beach CA 90815.
Native plants I’ve found grow well in my yard here in Long Beach include Yarrow, California Lilac, White Sage, Cleveland Sage, California Buckwheat, Gooseberry bushes, Bladderpod and Toyon. Berry loving birds are attracted to the Toyon and Gooseberry, Hummingbirds are attracted to the Bladderpod and sage blooms, and buckwheat is a great pollinator plant. For information on more native plant species that do well in our area and what birds favor each, check out Audubon’s Native Plant Database, linked on our Conservation page at https://eldoradoaudubon.org/conservation/
When planting for a bird habitat consider different levels of vegetation. In my yard I have a mix of both native and non-native plants and trees: a giant maple tree, a slightly smaller tangerine tree along with a variety of bushes and plants creating an “understory”. A very tall and thick non-native honeysuckle bush (great hiding place from the Cooper’s hawks) and native Toyon bush are at the next level down. Just a bit lower in height I have native Coyote Bush, Gooseberry and California Lilacs. Next level down are the native sages, Bladderpods and a few other native and non-native small plants.
As I watch the Hooded Oriole, House Wren, Goldfinches, Warblers, Scrub Jays, Mockingbirds, California Towhees, Allen’s Hummingbirds, occasional Pacific-slope Flycatcher and a variety of other feathered visitors to my backyard, I can’t help but notice their feeding and perching habits in the different height bushes and trees.
The Hooded Oriole seems to favor the high side of mid-size bushes and lower spots of the large trees, apparently catching insects and feeding on flowering bushes, drinking from the pond, and like many other bird species I see, perching on the dead snag next to the pond at times, which changed my plans for removing it.
I often see Goldfinches flying through the pond fountain and perching on the dead snag next to the pond, sometimes taking shelter in middle to lower sections of thick bushes and of course feeding on the seeds of low lying native plants—native thistles are a favorite.
The Mockingbird most often perches high up in tree tops singing, sometimes taking to the ground to catch insects. The Toyon rarely has the beautiful red berries as these seem to be quite tasty to the resident mocks, along with the native Gooseberries.
California Scrub Jay
Numerous California Scrub Jays pass through daily, moving between high tree tops, medium under story bushes, finally perching on lower limbs of bushes “in wait”, finally sweeping down on the ground to catch unsuspecting insects. The Scrub Jays also like the dried seed pods on the Bladderpod bush, picking them up and shaking each one as they would a peanut, until they find just the right one.
I occasionally see a pair of California Towhees hopping along the ground through sheltered areas under low bushes pecking and scratching through the dirt for a meal. It won’t be long before large numbers of White-crowned Sparrows arrive to join them.
Orange-crowned Warbler in a native Bladderpod plant
In fall I always see a variety of warblers busy at work catching insects mostly in low to medium bushes, sometimes perching on low branches of tall trees or in thick bushes, often joined by the House Wrens, numerous Bushtits and others.
Side note, don’t forget about windows – reflections of your beautiful bird habitat can cause birds to collide with glass, but good news, there is a fix and it can be very simple, just follow the 4” inch rule– space decals, or strips of thin tape, string, etc. 4 inches apart. I have vertical blinds which I never pull aside but only crack open creating this effect and no collision problems. For more info on preventing window collisions see the “bird friendly communities” section at the bottom of our Conservation page at https://eldoradoaudubon.org/conservation/
Finally, you may want to take your backyard birding habitat plans a step further and consider participating in Cornell Lab’s Habitat Network http://content.yardmap.org/ or even get your yard certified as an official Wildlife Habitat https://www.nwf.org/certify
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!