North Carolina could be described as a Naturalist’s paradise due to the variety of wildlife we see year-round as a result of our state’s geographical location. We lie right on the border of the northern/southern climate zones, and wildlife from both regions cohabitate the same areas. NC serves as a winter home for scores of bird species who over-winter in our freshwater lakes and brackish wetlands. Our mountainous west serves other species that require alpine-like environments and temperatures.

Thus if a gardener is prepared and knows the ins and outs of gardening for wildlife, wintertime can be a feast for the eyes in terms of birding. The key is using botanicals in combination with man-made feeders to offer birds an attractive place to feed and forage through the winter. If designed correctly, not only will you see a bounty of birds, you may actually attract repeat tenants who know and remember to take up residence in your garden every year due to an abundance of food. While we don’t want to get involved in a discussion about which birds we see every year and which plants they will definitely be attracted to because it varies widely even in a small area, we will mention a few species common at our nursery and what they eat, at least from our feeders and gardens.

Cardinals, Blue-Jays, Red- Bellied Woodpeckers, and Mockingbirds are some of our larger songbirds. They seem to love seeds of all sizes such as sunflower, peanut, wheat, cracked corn, deciduous holly and dogwood berries, and the occasional insect. Smaller residents include Gold Finches, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Juncos, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Eastern Bluebirds, and Tufted Titmouses. They tend to forage on smaller foods such as seeds of beauty berry, purple cone flower, Verbena bonariensis, generic bird seed and small insects. When we rake leaves around the nursery, the Bluebirds perch in the trees nearby and swoop down to gobble up worms and insects that are uncovered in the process. Sightings vary year to year, and our residents come and go as they please. We may see 20 woodpeckers one year and only two the next. But we can usually count on a plentitude of birds in winter, and we encourage you to take the time to add garden elements (water, food, shelter) that will enhance your birding potential in the winter.

For more information on gardening for birds, seek the advice of the scores of books and internet sites devoted to the subject, your local birding club, or one of our nursery associates. We’d be glad to help you learn to enjoy the birds of winter as much as we do.

Morgan Nicholson