Birding: Native plants are for the birds

A male spotted towhee sits on top of a live scrub oak tree, a favorite shrub that towhees use for shelter and protection. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

A male spotted towhee sits on top of a live scrub oak tree, a favorite shrub that towhees use for shelter and protection. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

This has been a busy week for me with five speaking engagements. This evening at 6:30, I will be presenting a program for the Arizona Native Plant Society at the Highlands Center for Natural History, 1375 S. Walker Road, and I invite you to come.

The title for my presentation is “Native plants are for the birds,” and I will share my thoughts on the relationship between native plants and the wild birds that call the Central Highlands of Arizona their home.

It is well known that plants and birds share relationships that are mutually beneficial to one another, resulting in reproductive success and ensuring the future existence of their species. Birds could not survive without plants, and many plant species rely on birds for pollination and seed and nut dispersal.

Not familiar with the Arizona Native Plant Society? The Arizona Native Plant Society is a nonprofit organization devoted to Arizona’s native plants. Its mission is to promote knowledge, appreciation, conservation and restoration of Arizona native plants and their habitats.

Founded in 1977, this society now has six chapters in the state — Cochise, Flagstaff, Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson and Yuma. They have a very nice website at www.aznps.com if you would like to learn more about their local and statewide activities and events. If you’d like to attend their meeting tonight, Sept. 14, the event is free and open to the public.

Although our weather continues to be warm and not necessarily fall-like, some of our winter snow birds (real birds, not folks from Minnesota) will start showing up by week’s end.

Within the next week or two you should start seeing white-crowned sparrows in your yard. They will then be followed in another week or two by dark-eyed juncos. About the same time yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets will start showing up.

As the seasons change, you may be wondering if you need to change what you are feeding the wild birds in your yard. If you do not offer suet year-round, then I suggest you put up at least one suet feeder now, and continue to put up additional suet feeders as winter approaches.

This is the time of year when we field one particular question over and over again here at the Bird Barn — “When should I take down my hummingbird feeder(s)?” There is no set answer to this question. Instead, your decision should be based on the hummingbird activity you are experiencing in your yard.

I still have six hummingbird feeders out, but I will soon start bringing them in, one per week over the next several weeks until I get down to one feeder. At that point, I will wait and see if I have any hummingbird activity. If so, the feeder will stay out longer. But, if not, then by Oct. 31, I will take down my last feeder.

As you take down your hummingbird feeders, it is a good idea to replace them with suet feeders. I usually maintain four suet feeders in my yard in winter, one on each side of the house. Placement is very important. As much as you possibly can, try to put your suet feeders in vegetation, rather than out in the open on a shepherd’s hook.

The month of September is flying by, and I want to promote our ninth annual Wild Bird Photography contest. The submission period started back on Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. We encourage anyone interested in wild bird photography to submit pictures for this fun, annual event. Photo contest guidelines are available for review on the Jay’s Bird Barn website at www.jaysbirdbarn.com.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.