Birds create the everyday soundtracks to our lives. They provide a soothing background chirp when on a walk, a lovely morning wake-up call through our open windows, or an exciting song while at the backyard feeder that can last for minutes even hours. In addition to their wonderful sound, birds play an important part in healthy ecosystems. They do everything from pollinating plants to spreading seeds and controlling pests.
In our upcoming class, Bring Bluebirds to Your Garden, instructor Ian Stewart demonstrates how your garden can provide a friendly environment for migratory and native birds, including the gorgeous bluebird. If you are interested in bringing these blue beauties to your own yard, read on to hear what Ian has to say about his upcoming class, and register to join us on November 1.
Mt. Cuba Center: When did your passion for birds begin?
Ian Stewart: I spent a lot of time outdoors when I was a boy and have always enjoyed all forms of nature, but birds are my favorite for lots of reasons. They’re colorful and often have beautiful songs and they’re present year-round in all types of habitat so there’s never really an off-season. Plus, you don’t have to go and search for them as you can attract several species to your yard with food, especially in the fall.
Mt Cuba Center: You are a federally-licensed bird bander. Can you tell us what that means and what we can discover about birds through bird banding?
Ian Stewart: Bird banding is the act of placing a numbered aluminum band on a bird’s leg (like a bracelet). Since every number is unique it allows bird banders to track where birds go at different times of year, if you or another bander recapture them (or, unfortunately someone finds a banded bird dead in their yard). This lets us figure out their migration routes and whether the cardinal you have in your yard in summer is the same cardinal you see there in winter. Recapturing banded birds has shown us that even small birds like tree swallows return to pretty much the same part of Delaware every summer after spending the winter in the gulf coast, which is quite amazing!
Mt. Cuba Center: What’s your favorite thing about bluebirds in particular?
Ian Stewart: It’s hard not to like bluebirds! They are beautiful birds, especially the bright blue male, and I love their warbling song. They just seem like happy, contented birds and it’s no surprise they are featured in popular culture like Disney movies and cartoons. Plus, with a bit of luck and skill you may be able to attract bluebirds to nest in your garden which gives you a direct connection with wildlife and provides an amazing educational opportunity. Seeing a bluebird always brightens my day.
Mt. Cuba Center: What is the easiest way someone can make a big impact on bird conservation?
Ian Stewart: Well, there are several ways including donating to several of our local or national bird or wildlife conservation societies. More specifically however, probably the best thing you can do is plant native wildflowers, shrubs and trees after getting rid of nonnative plants from your yard. These will provide birds with food all through the year (seeds in fall and winter, insects in spring and summer) and also provide valuable places for them to build their nests. In the fall, I encourage people to leave their weedy backyards or fields in place and resist the temptation to cut them down. These weedy areas are rich in insects and seeds but also valuable resources for birds to sleep in overnight or hide from predators. And please leave the leaves on the ground as birds love to dig through these for food!
Bring Bluebirds to Your Garden with instructor Ian Stewart takes place on November 1. Register now to find out more!