For many of us, gardening is a way to commune with nature and create landscapes where we can enjoy our interactions with visiting wildlife. Some native animals, such as deer and iguanas, have become the bane of many a gardener. Most birds, on the other hand, are among the most appreciated guests and provide us with infinite delight through their songs, splashes of vibrant color, and there captivating aerial antics.
Attracting birds to a garden and maximizing our opportunities to observe them is a top priority of many home gardeners. This process starts with picking the best spots for observation, maybe an open lawn in front of a frequented patio, or some ample space in front of your favorite home window. Anything you plant in between should be low enough so as not to obstruct your view, although some of the shier birds do prefer cover to shelter themselves under rather than an intimidating expanse of entirely open exposure.
Your next step should be providing them with some tasty treats to entice them and a little water for the popular bird bath. The receptacles for this can be as simple and economical as something homemade from recycled materials, to as elegant and personal as custom commissioned cantera carvings.
For our feathered friends, what you offer inside your feeders is more important than what their plates look like. Commercial bird feed mixes abound in most groceries and landscape supply centers, but you can create your own offerings and experiment with what your favorite fowls appear to enjoy the most.
Peanuts and sunflower seeds are standard fare, but many fruits are often popular too, including watermelon, bananas, and oranges. Watermelon wedges and banana slices can be placed on trays. Oranges can be cut in halves and suspended from wires to provide both perches and a citrus prize.
Avocados are treasured by many birds and attacked with rapt delight. A daily avocado bill just for your bird feeders could quickly add up, but birds are not usually as picky as we are about them starting to turn, so the next time you’ve let an avocado go a little to long, offer it in your feeder rather than throw it to the compost.
Consistency is an essential component to providing a true bird haven. It’s better to offer small portions but to do so daily than to place out more than necessary. This also helps ensure that everything is eaten by evening, so your bird feeders don’t begin attracting rodents at night.
Hummingbird feeders should be supplied with a solution of 1 part sugar (white cane sugar) to for parts water without any food coloring or other additives. Keeping the mix to an exact ratio is important, so stay in the practice of using a measuring cup. I find most hummingbird feeders have larger reservoirs than necessary as the sugar water solution should be replaced every two days to keep it from spoiling, with any leftover liquid discarded. To save time, you may prepare your sugar-water solution in a large container and keep it in the refrigerator for frequent, easy refills. Refrigerated, the solution can keep for up to two weeks.
The Puerto Vallarta region boasts over 300 species of birds, many of which are cloaked in dazzling coloration and distinctive anatomical characteristics only associated with the tropics. Creating your own bird-beckoning oasis is one of the best ways to appreciate this incredible biodiversity. Even the most casual backyard birder here can quickly rack up a species count that would be envied by many much more serious birders in more northern latitudes. So happy tropical gardening to you, and happy birding!