Gift ideas for gardeners and bird watchers

Give a gift that provides beauty, entertainment and health benefits throughout the year. With the recent increase in gardening and bird watching, what could be more perfect than a gift that supports both interests?

Birds that visit feeders, munch on echinacea seeds in the garden, and perch under the shelter of evergreens help brighten up the long, often dreary days of winter. Much like gardening, bird watching helps us connect with nature, reduces stress, and elevates our mood.

Plus, the gardeners on your list will appreciate the help birds give with pest management. High protein insects and spiders are an essential part of the diet of 96% of North American land birds.

Cultivating a landscape filled with plants that provide seeds, berries, and shelter is a great way to attract those welcome guests to our gardens. Providing additional sources of food, water and shelter can increase the number and diversity of winged visitors.

Help the recipient of your gift create a bird feeding station so that they can easily watch the birds and enjoy their songs. Include a variety of feeders suitable for the birds they want to attract. Choose feeders that are easy to fill and clean and protect the seeds from the elements and squirrels.

You will attract a wide range of birds with both tray and platform feeders. Look for ones like the Gardener’s Supply Twigs platform bird feeder, which has a cover to protect seeds from rain and snow and a removable mesh floor for easy cleaning. Platform feeders like this, with excellent drainage, help minimize the risk of wet seed germination or support bacteria and fungi that can harm birds.

Help keep the seeds safe and fresh with regular cleaning and providing only enough seeds for a day or two.

The hoppers or feeders protect the seeds from bad weather and bird droppings. But if the seed gets wet, the closed environment is perfect for the growth of bacteria and fungi. In addition, they are more difficult to clean.

Tube feeders are cylinders with perches and feeding ports. Those with perches above openings attract birds such as goldfinches and chickadees which can feed upside down. Those with small perches discourage large birds from feeding. Choose tube feeders with small ports for small seeds like Nyjer thistle and those with larger openings for large seeds.

Look for those that are wrapped in metal wire to keep squirrels out and those that are easy to clean like the Clean Cleaver Tube Dispenser from Gardener’s Supply Cleaver with a removable bottom. Reduce problems on other tube feeders by blocking the bottom of the tube that extends below the lowest feed port. Seeds and water can accumulate there, increasing the risk of fungi and bacteria.

Regularly clean feeders with a 10% chlorine-free bleach solution, commercial bird feeder cleaner, or a mild solution of unscented dish soap. Wash the inside and outside of the feeder, perches and feeding ports. Once cleaned, rinse with clean water and dry before refilling.

Provide shelter from wind, snow, rain, and predators for the birds that overwinter in your landscape. Supplement what trees and shrubs provide by including a few nesting boxes and pockets. Fairtrade Perch Pockets from Gardener’s Supply ( are attractive, easy to hang, provide necessary insulation, and are easy for birds to get in and out of.

Make sure you provide water throughout the year. Those who live in colder climates will need to add a heater, bubbler, or aerator to keep the water from freezing. Providing cool water reduces calories and body heat that a bird uses to melt snow and ice.

Choose a birdbath that can be left outside year-round to prevent cracks and leaks when the water freezes, and place it in a sunny location. Add a few stones so the birds can take a sip without getting totally wet. Keep them clean as you do during the warmer months.

Looking for more ideas? Help your bird watcher prepare for nesting season by providing him with one or more nesting boxes. These make attractive additions to any landscape while providing more homes for visiting songbirds.

When choosing the right gift for your favorite birdwatcher or gardener, consider creating or expanding your own bird-friendly landscape. A small investment in creating bird habitat provides wonderful benefits year round.

Melinda Myers has written over 20 gardening books, including “The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook” and “Small Space Gardening”. She hosts the Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the syndicated program “Melinda’s Garden Moment” on television and radio.

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