Put your winter garden to work as a haven for birds. Leaves and brush left to compost provide foraging and roosting places, smother this year’s weeds, and feed next spring’s plant growth. Watch for juncos and towhees in the leaf litter, and wrens in the brush. Maybe even a Song Sparrow, like this one!
With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds year round.
Birds in the Winter Garden
Written by Ellen Blackstone
This is BirdNote.
[Sound of leaves being raked]
Instead of just putting your garden to bed this autumn, why not put it to work as a haven for wintering birds?
Instead of dumping your leaves, rake them to cover your flower and vegetable beds. [Raking] They’ll smother the weeds and decompose, feeding next year’s plants. And in the meantime, juncos, sparrows, and towhees will scuffle around and feed in the leaf litter.
[Sound of Spotted Towhee, doing its own raking]
When you trim back the trees and shrubs, throw the clippings into a heap in the corner of your yard. The pile will break down into nutritious garden compost over the winter, and the Song Sparrows and wrens will thank you for a place to forage and roost. [Song Sparrow] You can also leave the seed-heads on perennial plants – purple coneflowers, sunflowers, and more. They’re a treat for finches, Pine Siskins and other birds. (Editor's note: Birds are not known to eat milkweed seeds, as suggested in the story, but we encourage listeners to plant milkweed for the sake of monarch butterflies and other critters.)
[Fussing of Pine Siskins]
Do you need to prune a tree – or even cut it down? Well, fall is the best time of year to do it, because you won’t be destroying any active bird nests. And if you can leave a dead tree on your property -- a snag -- that can be even better for wildlife.
With a little planning, your garden can be a haven for birds like this Bewick’s Wren, all year round.
[Winter call of Bewick’s Wren]
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Narrator: Mary McCann
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Song Sparrow  recorded by G.A. Keller; Spotted Towhee feeding in leaf litter recorded by K. Colver, call of Bewick’s Wren and chatter of Pine Siskins  by G.A. Keller.
Ambient provided by Kessler Productions.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote November 2016 / 2019
ID# 110405gardenKPLU garden-03c