While we often think of birds as a pleasant and melodious addition to the flower garden, we don't always consider their ecological role in the garden. However, birds can be important pollinators of our garden flowers. In an age when bee populations are declining, attracting birds to the garden to pollinate our plants becomes even more important to consider. Create a flower garden for the birds by planting flowers that will attract these flying pollinators.
Birds That Pollinate Flowers
Many people in North and South America think of the hummingbird when they think of a bird that pollinates flowers. However, there are over 2,000 species of birds that pollinate flowers, and hummingbird species are just some of the bird pollinators. Other birds that pollinate flowers include the Hawaiian honeycreeper, certain parrot species in New Guinea, tropical sunbirds and the Australian honeyeater.
What Flowers Do Birds Pollinate?
Different flowers suit different pollinators. Birds, bees, beetles and butterflies all pollinate flowers, and the flowers and the pollinators suit each other.
Flowers that birds can pollinate tend to look similar. They tend to be long, tubular or cup-shaped flowers like honeysuckles. This shape allows a bird to reach into the flower and pollinate it when it places its beak into the flower to look for nectar.
Bird-pollinated flowers are often bright colors like red, yellow or orange. Bright red and pink flowers are particularly attractive to birds. Think of the columbine, many honeysuckles and the fuschia in the hanging planter. These plants are very attractive to bird pollinators. The nectar is deep within the flower so that the bird needs to probe the flower with its beak. While it probes the flower, it collects the pollen on its head and back. Birds look to flowers for nectar, and the pollination is what flowers get out of the deal.
Since birds don't smell very well, flowers that attract birds do not need to have a scent, although some of them may be scented.
Species of Flowers That Attract Birds
If you are creating a flower garden for the birds, what species of flowers should you grow in your garden?
Grow honeysuckles on trellises and up existing plants. These plants add a beautiful scent and attract birds with their nectar. Add a clematis to the trellis for its large and beautiful flowers that also attract bird pollinators.
Place fuschias in planter boxes and hanging baskets.
Grow columbines at the base of trees and shrubs in the partial shade. Impatiens and phloxes also attract birds and create a lovely cottage garden look.
Looking for a shrub to plant for the birds? Butterfly bush attracts both bird and butterfly pollinators. Azaleas come in vibrant colors and will also attract avian pollinators.
- Photo Credit hummingbird image by maiky911 from Fotolia.com parrot image by Mariusz Blach from Fotolia.com honeysuckle image by Jackie DeBusk from Fotolia.com columbine image by Andrew Orlemann from Fotolia.com
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