Hello West Hill,
At the last community dinner we talked about bird-friendly landscapes and hydrilla–the hydrilla e-mail went out, so below you will find, from Regi (thanks for the hospitality!) hints on attracting birds.
Also, if you have a topic on resources or sustainability that interests you, let us know about it.
The key is native plants: birds need food, cover and water. These are books I have found most helpful:
Baines, Joel and David Ruppert, Native Plants for Native Birds: A Guide to Planting for Birds in and Around Ithaca, NY 2009. Cayuga Bird Club.
Kress, Stephen. The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, 2/e. 2006. Audubon.
Kress, Stephen. The Bird Garden. Dorley Kindersley (mine is 1995 but I think there may be a later edition.)
I like grasses (e.g. Big Bluestem, little Bluestem), of course the old standbys– Black Eyed Susans and Coneflowers are easy. Zinnias and Cosmos are underrated.
Small evergreens give the birds cover even in a small yard (e.g. I have a Montgomery Blue Spruce by the front door). (But big trees are nice too. It’s the giant Black Walnut nearby that the Great Crested Flycatcher perches on to sing. Large Spruces provide great cover and large pines provide cones).
Small trees such as Sargeant Crabs and Hawthorns provide food.
One of my favorite plants is Winterberry since that will bring in some cool birds in winter (we get Bluebirds, among others). Serviceberry (bush or tree) is a welcome addition with pretty spring flowers and berries. (The Catbird is drawn to that.)
I also like the Spicebush (Lindera Benzoin) as much for its rangy beauty as for the rich late summer berries.
The cotoneasters make good cover for ground birds. As do the nest spruces (slow growers, though).
These are just a few ideas.
Oh, and don’t forget the brush pile. That makes a big difference for many birds. I think that’s one of the reasons we see the Carolina Wren with some frequency and White Throated Sparrows on occasion.
We have a large wood chip path in the back yard and, amazingly, I even saw an Ovenbird come to look for food there on more than one occasion.
Area nurseries where I have purchased plants:
The Plantsmen (specializes in native plants)
even Agway, if you know what to look for some end of year specials are worth the wait.