Bird watching is an interesting and inexpensive past-time for families and individuals of all ages. Gardeners can reserve an area in their backyard just for bird feeders and enjoy watching the visiting birds throughout the year. Bird watching can also be a great learning experience as beginners attempt to identify new and unusual species.

The secret to a bird-friendly native garden, though, is to have a mix of seed plants and berries. Native berries attract our most-wanted bird friends, including many that aren’t backyard feeder regulars. Bluebirds, thrushes, rose-breasted grosbeaks, tanagers, orioles, thrashers, vireos, wood warblers, cedar waxwings, great crested flycatchers—more than 100 species—may visit as soon as the crop begins to ripen.

So plant a hedge of elderberries, dot that solid wall of arborvitae with winter-berries, add a service-berry or flowering dogwood to your flower beds, and slip in some blueberries among the azaleas. Birds will strip ripe berries fast, often in just a few weeks. That’s the downside of planting native berries: It works like a charm, but the berries vanish in a hurry. But what a thrill while it lasts! Try some of these berry-producers.

NORTHEAST: bayberry, low-bush blueberries, American elderberry, American red elderberry, American mountain ash, sassafras, eastern red-cedar

While food is a great way to attract birds, they also need to have a place to drink. Try to offer a fresh, clean source of water that is easy for birds to reach and safe from predators. Many birds will also use baths for a quick dip to keep cool and keep their plumage in top condition. If you live in an area with severe winters, a heated bird bath will also help bring in winter bird species.

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