Birds in your garden…. What child (or adult) doesn’t love to watch birds as they dip in birdbaths, nest in trees, flitter about the flowers, sing their lovely “songs” and more?

Why are birds important in our gardens? What do they do to help our gardens flourish?

First, birds control pests such as insects. They eat insects and help eliminate unwanted insects from your yard. This may help home gardeners reduce the need to use pesticides (bug spray).

Second, birds love to eat weed seeds. Who doesn’t want fewer weeds in their garden?

Third, many birds love to sip nectar from flowers. This process helps pollination. They also spread flower seeds throughout the garden.

Fourth, birds help us conserve. Conserve what? Birds love plants native to California. Growing these native plants will attract more birds to your yard, helping to diminish garden chores (such as weeding, using pesticides, etc.).

Besides growing native plants, what are other ways to attract birds to your yard? Birds require food, water and shelter.

Food: Besides insects and nectar, birds eat worms and berries. Birdseed feeders and hummingbird feeders attract birds to your yard.

Water: Birds need water just like humans do. Providing birdbaths or water features give birds water to drink and “bathe” in.

Shelter: Birds need shelter just like we do. They need a safe place to build nests to protect their young. They also need a place to hide from predators and bad weather.

So let’s talk about birdhouses. What a great family activity! Birdhouses can be as simple as:

  • A cardboard or plastic milk carton with an opening cut out (by an adult).
  • A tin coffee can decorated and hung sideways from a tree (glue ribbon around the round can with a loop.
  • A decorated small basket with a handle.
  • A plastic 1-gallon milk jug with twine or jute around the handle to hang.
  • Or an adult can build a simple birdhouse from wood with a hole with a perch.
  • Or you can come to the Master Gardeners’ demo garden at Hurley Elementary School and make your own authentic Indian birdhouse on May 4.

At the demo garden, we have a replica of an original Indian birdhouse, which comes from the Northfork Mono Indians. Northfork is a small community north of Madera near the base of the Sierras. These Indians actually built teepees from the bark of cedar trees. Cedar is a very durable wood. Indians also made birdhouses from cedar twigs to resemble their teepees. Woodpeckers near these Indians would store their acorns in the birdhouses over the winter months.

The Spring Into Gardening Festival at Hurley Elementary School, 6600 W. Hurley Ave., Visalia, is on May 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring your family, friends and gardening questions. We have mostly drought-tolerant and Native California plants on display. Learn about square-foot gardening, herbs and succulents from our experts. And, kids, build an authentic replica of a Mono Indian birdhouse for your yard!