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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, February 24, 2007

“Cover and Water to Attract Migrating Birds”

San Antonio and South Texas are blessed with a large number of resident birds that we can attract to our landscapes with plantings and feeders. Beginning now and for the next three months we also can attract migrants and wintering that are just moving through on their way to nesting grounds in the north.

Some of the same landscape features that attract resident birds will attract the migrating and wintering birds. Food plants, and feeders can bring the migrants in for viewing, but two other important features are cover and water.

Cover in simplest terms means thickets. Thickets of plant cover provide nesting sites for birds, but also provide hiding places and areas to search for insects, seeds, and birds. Every bird species has a little different niche in the habitat varying from rarely leaving the ground to rarely leaving the tree tops, but in general the thicker and more diverse the cover, the more likely that the migrating and wintering birds will visit your landscape. Inventory your yard and neighborhood and attempt to fill any gap in cover that occurs. Here are some good plants for thickets. Select the ones that are attractive to you and will contribute to your neighborhood’s appearance in addition to providing cover for the birds.

Evergreens make good cover. The Arizona cypress is one of our best choices in this category. The trees reach 25 feet tall on most sites, are very thick, are pest-free, and have an attractive conical shape. The foliage is a distinctive silver green. A single Arizona cypress in the landscape will attract birds; three or four will have major impact.

All of the thorny old-fashioned roses are good choices for your landscape if you want an attractive plant and cover for the birds. Just pick the size you need. A butterfly rose will bloom nine months out of the year and grow to be 10 feet in diameter. Katie Road (also called Carefree Beauty) has a more modest size, about six feet tall and equally wide, blooms most of the year, has beautiful pink blooms and even provides rose hips for feeding birds. For a three feet by three feet thicket rose, select Martha Gonzales. They have small blood red blooms nine months of the year.

There is a wide range of hollies that make outstanding thickets and cover for birds. Again if it is birds that you have in mind, select the hollies with sharp points on the tips of the leaves. All of the hollies are outstanding landscape plants for shade or sun. If you use hollies you can create a bird-friendly thicket without it being recognized as such. Plant a cluster or even a row. They are all so disciplined in growth habit that your “thicket” resembles a formal planting. The hollies are drought-tolerant after they are established and some even provide decorative berries that are liked by the birds almost as much as pyracantha. My favorite hollies are dwarf Chinese (3 feet), dwarf burford (6 feet), and standard burford (8 feet).

During the next three months in addition to our resident and wintering birds we have the opportunity to observe a large number of migrating species. A key factor in the number of migrating birds you will see is the thickness and diversity of plantings in your landscape and neighborhood. Another way to increase your chances of attracting more species of birds during migration this spring is to consider a water source, preferably one with running water.

Many birds will stop to drink and bathe in a traditional bird bath, but for real action consider some variations of the simple theme of a shallow vessel mounted on a pedestal.

A cluster of bird baths better accommodate the flocking birds. Four or five bird baths of different sizes and heights covered with cedar waxwings is an impressive sight. With their waxy appearance they are unreal appearing to begin with. The way they nod and drink in unison adds to the surreal effect.

Running water is even more attractive to birds moving through an area than a number of bird baths. Some nurseries and home improvement stores offer drippers that release a “drip, drip, drip” from a gooseneck copper tube above the bird bath. The apparatus is easily connected to the bath and to a water connection. Even high flying birds seem to notice and home in on the dripper. The birds moving through your landscape certainly will.

The ultimate water source for birds is the recycling pond and stream. It does not have to be large, but it needs moving water and shallow area where the birds can bathe. This structure is where you can expect maximum interest from indigo buntings, painted buntings, orioles, wilson warblers, and other stars of the spring migration.

For more information on attracting birds to your landscape, obtain the SAWS Landscape Care Guide from your favorite nursery.

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