How to support our feathered friends

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Many of us have noticed tree and shrub damage brought on by the drought, either in the wild or in gardens receiving less irrigation. What is hard to see is the effect four years of drought has had on our feathered friends.

house finch

Local waterfowl populations have dwindled or been altered, in part, by diminished water supply. The drought has led to a steep decrease in native seed production, especially native grass seeds that local and migratory songbirds depend on. Other food sources have diminished as well. Insect populations are smaller, and native fruits and berries are yielding smaller crops (if any at all). As gardeners, there is little we can do to support waterfowl, but here are ways to help migratory songbirds, hummingbirds and local birds through this tough time. You can:

Provide water:

  • A birdbath or saucer of water for bathing and drinking will keep birds visiting your garden.
  • Small saucers placed on the ground can mimic natural puddles (something we haven’t seen in quite a while).

Provide food:

  • Provide a variety of feeders to attract and support a wider variety of birds. Avoid seed mixtures with fillers such as milo, sorghum or large amounts of corn. These “filler seeds” usually end up on the ground and can attract rodents.
  • Offer suet or suet dough which can provide needed calories and energy for increased activity during the day, and fat storage to prepare for colder weather.
  • Leave seed producing flowers on plants longer, so birds can harvest the seed.
  • Leave ripe and over-ripe fruit (apples, pears, persimmons, etc.) on trees longer to feed the thrushes, robins, flickers and woodpeckers.
  • Keep hummingbird feeders full. With many home landscapes on minimal irrigation, fall flowers normally attractive to hummingbirds are experiencing a shortened bloom cycle.

This winter we’re all hoping for rain to help our gardens, wildlife and the environment begin recovering from this extended drought. Regardless of precipitation that is hopefully around the corner, it’s critical that we take time now to protect and nourish the flora and fauna we so heavily rely on.

Thanks for choosing to garden with us.

Dave Stoner, President

Sloat Garden Center

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