Put Out the Welcome Mat for Our Feathered Friends

More than just being lovely to look at and listen to, birds are beneficial to have around, especially when it comes to pesky insects.

Birds provide immense pleasure with their tranquil melodies and pleasing plumage. Just peer out your kitchen window or wander through your garden from time to time and you’ll hear — and see — what I mean.

On a more practical note, birds benefit us by eliminating potentially harmful insects and caterpillars. According to the Garden Club of America:

  • A house wren feeds 500 insects to its young every summer afternoon.
  • A swallow can devour 1,000 insects every 12 hours.
  • A Baltimore oriole can consume approximately 17 caterpillars per minute.

What’s more, five percent of the food we consume is pollinated by hummingbirds.

So, how can we encourage these beautiful helpers to hang around? By always remembering these three things: food, cover and water.

Food – Keep a wide variety of seed, nectar, and berry producing plants in your garden.

Agarita Coneflower Daisy
Lantana Muhly Grass Sunflower


Angel’s Trumpet Crossvine Esperanza
Firebush Penta Red Yucca


Anaqua Carolina Buckthorn Hackberry
Juniper Mahonia Pigeon Berry

Cover – Provide the necessary protection for hiding, resting and breeding. Layers of vegetation, such as a combination of canopy trees, understory trees and shrubs, and ground vegetation offer the best cover.

Arizona Cypress Chinquapin Oak Cedar Elm
Hackberry Monterrey Oak Pecan


Understory Trees and Shrubs
Carolina Buckthorn Mexican Plum Spiny Hackberry
Sumacs Texas Sophora White Brush


Ground Vegetation
Greenbriar Lantana Ornamental grasses
muhly, fountain,
and feather
Pigeon Berry Red Yucca Soft Leaf Yucca

Water – Fresh or moving water is best for wildlife, especially birds.

  • A bird bath half filled with flat rocks is ideal for birds. Change the water twice a week. Absolutely no vegetation within three feet of the base.
  • A slow, persistent drip from a faucet or hose onto a shallow rock or pan works well. Of course, it must be a very slow drip or that monthly bill from SAWS will surely increase.
  • A child’s pool sunk halfway into the ground and surrounded by river rock or larger and then filled with flat rocks of various sizes produces a water source that will benefit all wildlife. Potted pond plants and dragonflies are perfect additions to any water source.
Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
Dig Deeper

Find expert advice on garden basics, landscape design, watering and year-round maintenance.