Mon, Sept. 16

By the Birds and For the Birds

Lemon yellow yarrow, golden coreopsis, desert marigold, and gallardia fill our backyard with color that seems to be constantly waving with spring winds. Parry’s penstemon has faded and given way to beautiful Rocky Mountain penstemon. Under all these are the black foot daisy and fleabane daisy that fill the ground with delicate spots of white. Out in the desert beyond narrowleaf yucca are beginning to bloom. Coneflower, dogweed and feathered dalea are painting the limestone hillsides.

The yellow of yarrow and orange of gallardia are reflected overhead by the comings and goings of brightly colored orioles and black-headed grosbeaks. It is a glorious time of the year to spend out-of-doors watching the landscape explode into color.

This time of year surprise flowers poke up through old familiars in our backyard reminding us that much of our landscape was planted by the birds.

As they forage about the land consuming flower fruits and seeds they scatter “pie-fertilized” packages of what may bloom in our yard after the last monsoon in September – or perhaps three or four years from now. That is the beauty of watching our backyard landscape change and evolve. It takes time and patience. The birds, antelope ground squirrels, rabbits and even the ants have literally landscaped much of our backyard.

For that and all the joy we get from watching them we are indeed greatly indebted to the many species of birds the Verde Valley is endowed with. Seeing birds scratch and forage so thoroughly through every level of our landscape from grass and desert floor to the tree top I am reminded of how everything is intricately linked. Thus it is so important that we understand, no matter what labels say, every pesticide, or herbicide used on the landscape will always affect the entire system of life – plants, insects, ground water, air and us.

Pulling weeds is a good way to get exercise. Don’t like the insects? Do what you can to attract insect eating birds. Wonder why you seem to have more “plain little brown birds” than bright colored birds?

It may be because you have planted exotic plants that are not appreciated by the native birds. The exotic birds are generalists and will eat anything, whereas many of our native species are specialists and have evolved with our Upper Sonoran Desert landscape – eating the native plant seeds or insects that

feed on the plants. Celebrate the natural diversity. Nature knows what she’s doing. If you need help knowing what flowers to plant to attract birds come to Jay’s Bird Barn. Together we can come up with solutions to your landscape needs that work with nature.

Dena is a seasoned naturalist, birding guide and educator. As manager of Jay’s Bird Barn in West Sedona she is available to answer questions about wild birds and enhancing your backyard habitat. You may contact her at (928) 203-5700 or

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