The Green Report

As Dunwoody enters the height of summer, the time has come to make sure our yards and gardens are habitable for not only ourselves, but the plants and animals that live with us. The city of Dunwoody has deemed July “My Own Backyard” month, which focuses on maintaining the ecosystem and yards of Dunwoody. Here are a few tips to liven up the ecosystem of your own yard or garden, specifically the birds.

Georgia boasts over 400 bird species, and the sparse trees of the suburbs offer an excellent habitat for many of these; however, there are several threats to bird populations that could limit the amount of jays and finches visiting Dunwoody’s feeders this year: the most prominent issue being stray cats. Each year, stray cats kill almost 3 billion birds in the U.S. This has led to a dramatic decrease in bird populations in the past decade as feral cat populations rise. In order to combat this issue, it is important to limit the number of cats by spaying and neutering domestic cats and keeping them indoors more often. With the help of Dunwoody citizens keeping an eye on cats, the natural birds of our backyard ecosystem can make a comeback.

While making a safer habitat is helpful, it is equally important to attract the birds to Dunwoody. The following tips can help bring the most birds to visit your garden or backyard this summer and next.

Plant options: Planting Salvia, a blue and red flowered bush, can attract finches and hummingbirds to any garden. As a native plant, once planted it is practically maintenance free. A fast growing alternative to Salvia is the Chokeberry. This native tree sprouts quickly and attracts a wide variety of birds, as well as butterflies. Finally, for a more permanent addition to a yard, planting Hawthorn or Serviceberry trees can attract cardinals and waxwings in the height of summer. These trees can be planted and cared for as saplings, then left to thrive on their own.

Water is often what limits birds from moving into an area. Even though Dunwoody has a wide variety of streams and brooks to cater to birds, many times it can be helpful to have a birdbath in the yard to attract species. Bird baths can range from cleaned paint buckets to permanent, concrete fountains. Whichever end of the spectrum, birds will be attracted to the promise of water.

Finally, one of the simplest additions to a yard can be a bird house. These small, wooden houses can be placed out of reach of hazards, such as cats, and provide a nesting area for a wide range of species. Typically, the standard birdhouse has a hole 2 inches in diameter and enough space to house 2 adult birds. Keeping squirrels away from these houses (and any feeders) can also be easy: keep the houses away from trees or wrap the stand/hanger with smooth plastic to prevent squirrels from climbing.

These tips should be able to get more birds to visit Dunwoody’s gardens and yards. With the help of Dunwoody citizens, bird populations will go back on the rise. July’s “My Own Backyard” theme will continue with a tree planting and care seminar, taught by city arborist Howard Koontz, on July 31 from 6-8 p.m. at the Dunwoody Nature Center, 5343 Roberts Drive. For more information on the talk, contact Drew Cutright at drew.cutright@dunwoodyga.gov or 678.382.6815.

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