Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meet Mr and Mrs Red, Our Garden Pest Control Birds.

For years I only saw birds as a garden nuisance but lately I realized that birds are excellent for garden pest control.  If you're an organic gardener like me, attracting birds to your garden is a great way to minimize damage to plants from insects.  I made this discovery unintentionally this year, and I wish I had thought of it earlier as there has been far less evidence of plant destruction caused by those awful creepy-crawly creatures!  With that being said I want to introduce you to our natural pest control team, Mr. and Mrs. Red!

Our Hummingbird feeder attracted a pair of House Finches.
Here Mrs. Red prepares to take a sip of sweetened water.

Back in January, when I first put out our container garden, I decided to fill our hummingbird feeder for two reasons, A) Hummingbirds are great pollinators and B) Ren and I love watching hummingbirds. Well, this year we did not attract hummingbirds, at least not any that stuck around, but we did attract a pair of mating House Finches. I must admit that I was disappointed and even a little annoyed by them at first because I thought they were sparrows. However, when I saw the Male's bright red breast I knew that these were just like the birds that congregate around a feeder near a window at my dentist's office and I remembered how much I enjoy watching their cheerful antics as my teeth were being cleaned. After a little research I was able to identify them as House Finches.  As is typical with most bird species, Mr. Red is much brighter than Mrs. Red.

Mr. Red stands guard at the feeder!

As the days passed by both Ren and I got used to Mr. and Mrs. Red's frequent visits to our feeder.  They so enjoyed our feeder that they built a nest in the rafters of the building directly across from us and began to spend much of their time on the rail of our balcony. We could often find them perched on our feeder sipping at sugar water.  When Mr. Red would show up alone we would soon hear Mrs. Red from the  across the way.  Ren and I joked that Mr. Red was sneaking away for a drink at the neighborhood bar. After a few weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Red had established the feeder as their territory and vigorously kept at bay any other birds who tried to partake; it became their own private watering hole.

One of our resident garden pest control experts keeps the bugs at
bay in this hanging planter.

One day, while they both were on the balcony, I saw Mr. Red do something that caused me to have a revelation.  While Mrs. Red was sipping from the feeder, I watched Mr. Red, who was perched on a nearby hanging planter, reach around and grab a nice juicy bug out of the planter.  It was then I realized that birds are an excellent way to keep bugs out of the garden and that any garden I have in the future must be set up to attract the right kind of birds to our garden.

Mrs. Red Hanging out on one of our planters.

What makes Mr. and Mrs. Red the right kind of birds for our garden is that their diet consists mainly of insects, seeds, berries, and of course, sweet hummingbird nectar.  That means, I don't have to use any expensive organic sprays or even worse, toxic chemical pesticides. Since I don't have any berries in the garden, but I do have plenty of bugs, House Finches are a great fit.  The wrong kind of bird to attract to my garden would be mockingbirds and blackbirds who love tomatoes as much as I do.  But, in their defense, they also love bugs, so in my opinion, it is better to cover the fruits than to chase away the birds.  Of course, that's only my opinion.  All the same, we love watching Mr. and Mrs Red and we know that our garden is in good care when they are on the job. Until the next time, ~Happy Gardening~

For more tips on attracting birds to your garden, visit HGTV's blog at  They have some great tips and links to places that can help you.  we would also love to hear comments from anyone who can share ideas on attracting birds to their garden.


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