On Gardening: Birds love peanut butter, just like you

By NORMAN WINTER — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

As the birds came darting and swooping into the feeders like aerial acrobats, the looks on the children’s faces were my reward.

We’ve just opened our bird feeding station at the Columbus Botanical Garden and I spent many hours wondering if the success I had with peanut butter logs in the Lower Rio Grande Valley could be duplicated in Georgia. The answer is an unequivocal yes, and the good news is you can do it can too!

We first designed our area with a 3-foot-tall thicket on the outer perimeter. This serves as a wonderful shelter for little birds needing extra protection. We installed three shallow water stations built from handmade glazed-clay saucers attached to 4-foot-tall log-like posts. The water is changed daily but will soon have a continuous drip. Water is an absolute in creating your backyard feeding station.

All of our feeders are attached to 8-foot-tall tree-like posts. We have black-oiled sunflower feeders that are drawing finches in epic proportions, as well as chickadees, but the peanut butter logs are doing their part too. They are bringing in warblers, woodpeckers, tufted titmice and more. It seems everyday new birds are finding our feeding area.

Everyone has their favorite recipes, including straight peanut butter, both crunchy and smooth.

If you are like most, you’ll gravitate to whatever peanut butter is on sale. We have chosen to mix ours with cornmeal and it has certainly proven to be a blend equal to the task.

Our peanut butter logs vary in size but are generally about 24 inches in length. Six, 3/4-inch wide holes were drilled a little less than an inch deep. These holes will later be filled with your peanut butter blend. Some of our feeders have also had little quarter inch holes drilled below the large ones so that branch like pieces of wood could be inserted for perches. We did not use these in Texas, but they have proven quite useful here in Georgia, as they seem to be in continual use.

While the feeders will do their part to get you, your children or grandchildren hooked, a pair of binoculars will be a tool that will forever change your world when it comes to birding. Once you begin watching their eyes, the rotating of their heads and their graceful motion in flight, seen close-up through the lens, you will be a different person.

While we have added a feeding station and expanded the world of birding to our area, we are a garden and first began by planting native plants that produce berries loved by birds. Native yaupon hollies, American hollies, dogwoods and beautyberry are found throughout our 25 acres as is my favorite the southern wax myrtle that has been documented to feed 40 species of birds.

No matter where you live you can bring the world of birding to your yard, a park or a nearby school both with feeders, birdbaths or fountains, and strong support from native plants. The birds will reward your efforts, and children who grow up watching and learning about these birds may become environmental heroes just like you.

(Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus Ga., and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and the highly acclaimed “Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden.”)

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