One of the greatest gifts we can give children is to encourage them to develop a taste for gardening. Whether the children are our own at home, or in our charge at school, we should always be on the look out for ways of stimulating their interest. A fruitful and challenging step in this direction is to attract birds to the garden.
There are many reasons why people love to watch and study birds. Song, dance, courting, and nesting are all routines that have fascinated generations of bird watchers. Territorial behavior on the one hand and migratory visitations on the other are both rich and varied sources for study and examination. Why not include bird watching in the school curriculum or involve your own children in recording bird behavior in the family garden?
Ornithology is almost by definition a conservationist pastime. Bird watchers are invariably among the first to protest when a local habitat is in danger of destruction. As children become more expert at identifying the species that visit their home or school garden, or at recognizing a particular bird song, at least some sense of responsibility has to develop. After all, an environmentally conscious attitude is one that recognizes the connection between things; the relation between cause and effect.
In fact, a bird-friendly garden is a way of doing one’s bit for the environment. Gardens and parks are increasingly becoming a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife, squeezed out of their natural habitats by building and development. A little bit becomes quite a big bit when multiplied tens of thousands of times.
The beauty of turning your garden into a home for birds is that it is really quite easy to do. Even without getting involved with backyard feeders and birdbaths, your garden will attract birds if a few simple steps are taken. Firstly, plant a variety of shrubs and trees that produce fruit. They do not all have to be edible for humans. Secondly, and most crucially, desist from using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In the long run, the health of the soil is enhanced by organic amendments, while the increasing range of flora and fauna keeps most pests in check. Birds of course are an essential ingredient of natural, pest-control.
It is sometimes possible to arouse a child’s interest without great declarations and long speeches. Perhaps the sight of a hummingbird hovering above the flowers in search of nectar and insects will do the job. In any case, a wide variety of flowering plants attract hummingbirds; from ground covers and herbaceous perennials, to trees and shrubs.
Children today are so vulnerable to the pernicious influences of fashion, and the vice like grip of peer group pressure, that an activity that helps to develop independence of mind and spirit ought to be viewed as a top priority. The wondrous thing about gardening in general and bird watching in particular, is that they both make a massive contribution to that very worthy end.