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Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners

Attracting and Feeding, Problems and Solutions

The picture in the landscape is not complete without birds, and the birds should comprise more species than English sparrows. If one is to have birds on the premises, one must (1) attract them and (2) protect them.

One attracts birds by providing places in which they may nest. The free border plantings have distinct advantages in attracting chipping sparrows, catbirds, and other species. The bluebirds, house wrens, and martins may be attracted by boxes in which they can build.

One may attract birds by feeding them and supplying water. Suet for woodpeckers and others, grain and crumbs for other kinds, and taking care not to frighten or molest them, will soon win the confidence of the birds. A slowly running or dripping fountain, with a good rim on which they may perch, will also attract them, and it is no mean enjoyment to watch the birds at bathing. Or, if one does not care to go to the expense of a bird fountain, he may supply their wants by means of a shallow dish of water set on the lawn.

The birds will need protection from cats. There is no more reason why cats should roam at will and uncontrolled than that dogs or horses or poultry should be allowed unlimited license. A cat away from home is a trespasser and should be so treated. A person has no more right to inflict a cat on a neighborhood than to inflict a goat or rabbits or any other nuisance. All persons who keep cats should feel the same responsibility for them that they feel for other property; and they should be willing to forfeit their property right when they forfeit their control. The cats not only destroy birds, but they break the peace. The caterwauling at night will not be permitted in well-governed communities any more than the shooting of fire-arms or vicious talking will be allowed: all night-roaming cats should be gathered in, just as stray dogs and tramps are provided for.

I do not dislike cats, but I desire to see them kept at home and within control. If persons say that they cannot keep them on their own premises, then these persons should not be allowed to have them. A bell on the cat will prevent it from capturing old birds, and this may answer a good purpose late in the season; but it will not stop the robbing of nests or the taking of young birds, and here is where the greatest havoc is wrought.

It is often asserted that cats must roam in order that rats and mice may be reduced; but probably few house mice and few rats are got by wandering cats; and, again, many cats are not mousers. There are other ways of controlling rats and mice; or if cats are employed for this purpose, see that they are restricted to the places where the house rats and mice are to be found.

Many people like squirrels about the place, but they cannot expect to have both birds and squirrels unless very special precautions are taken.

The English or house sparrow drives away the native birds, although he is himself an attractive inhabitant in winter, particularly where native birds are not resident. The English sparrow should be kept in reduced numbers. This can be easily accomplished by poisoning (yikes, a bit non-pc!) them in winter (when other birds are not endangered) with wheat soaked in strychnine water. The contents of one of the eighth-ounce vials of strychnine that may be secured at a drug store is added to sufficient water to cover a quart of wheat. Let the wheat stand in the poison water twenty-four to forty-eight hours (but not long enough for the grains to sprout), then dry the wheat thoroughly. It cannot be distinguished from ordinary wheat, and sparrows usually eat it freely, particularly if they are in the habit of eating scattered grain and crumbs. Of course, the greatest caution must be exercised that in the use of such highly poisonous materials, accidents do not occur with other animals or with human beings.

Adapted from: 
Gardening Short Cuts 
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