Book review: "Gardening for the Birds"

By Susan Mulvihill

I’ve recently come across a new Timber Press book that will be a great resource for anyone interested in attracting birds to their garden.

The book is the appropriately-titled “Gardening for the Birds” and it’s written by George Adams (Timber Press, 444 pp., $24.95).

What I like about this book is that it covers all of the topics a bird-watching gardener would be interested in. It is divided into four main parts.

In part one, Adams has created a guide to plants that provide nesting sites for birds, along with the types of birds that will nest in them. There is a chart with nest box details based on the bird you hope to attract.

He discusses how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies and provides a calendar of when plants they favor are in bloom, their hardiness zones, plant size, uses, light requirements -- all based by geographic region.

Adams includes a similar guide to growing wildflowers for birds, that covers both annual and perennial types.

I’ve found in my own garden that the berry- or fruit-producing plants really draw in birds. In this book, there is a calendar for seasonal fruiting, which covers when berries, fruits and seeds will be available to birds -- everything is covered in great detail.

Adams heartily recommends planting natives to as a way to attract and feed birds. He also is a proponent of leaving seedheads for birds to eat in the winter.

In part two of the book, the author discusses the differences and unique qualities of the regions across the United States. He talks about landscape design and special considerations for the home garden, as well as how to deal with problems that can arise or challenging settings.

The plant directory is contained in part three. He explains that the plants included in it were chosen “because of their long flowering or fruiting times as well as other essential attributes for bird habitat, such as dense or prickly foliage for nesting or shelter for roosting.”

What I particularly like about the plant guide is that he discusses the types of birds that are attracted to each genus listed in it. He then includes various desirable species, which contain a description, the native distribution and cultivation of each.

Part four has the all-important bird directory. Each bird description covers its habitat, migration and winter range, the breeding range and behavior exhibited during that time, their nesting habitat and feeding habits. Adams covers every type of bird you could imagine, all organized by each bird family. For easy reference, each bird description includes an information box on plants for both food and shelter favored by that bird.

The photography throughout the book is excellent and certain to increase anyone’s excitement and enthusiasm for creating a landscape to attract a wide number of birds to watch and enjoy.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this important and engaging gardening topic.

Copyright Susan Mulvihill, 2014. All rights reserved.