Natural yards have a concentration of birds.

Our resident winter birds arrive from September to November. These include hummingbirds, painted buntings, and blue-gray gnatcatchers, several species of warblers, sharp-shinned hawks, kestrels, peregrine falcons, and even bald eagles. Florida bald eagles begin to nest in October. In April, they and their young fly to the Chesapeake Bay for the summer. My wife spotted one over a Publix parking lot stealing a fish from an osprey; funny how no one else noticed.

Take a closer look at the familiar and you may be surprised by something new. Eagles often mix with vultures momentarily in the sky yet keep moving rather than circle. The male summer tanager is red like a cardinal yet without the crest. Kingbirds, phoebes, flycatchers and shrikes often look like common mockingbirds. Good grief! I just looked out the window and saw a male rose-breasted grosbeak on the feeder. I never saw one of those here before.

Why is there a concentration of birds in the middle of all this development? Simple, there is nowhere else to find the cover and food that our small rural community offers. Many of our native grasses like the basket grass, fakahatchee grass, and witch grasses along with wildflowers offer their seeds. Nuts on the oaks and berries on a wide variety of shrubs offer plenty to the new arrivals. Even the insect pests of the summer are being cleaned off of the vegetation by migrant birds.

The native firebush not only attracts hummingbirds to the flowers but is loaded with half inch berries that the other birds fight over. Hackberry trees offer tiny berries along with elderberry, southern red cedar, bloodberry, wild coffee, snowberry and Spanish stopper. Bahama strongbark is drooping with clusters of half inch orange berries. Oaks, hickories, sweetgum and slash pine offer nuts and seeds while coontie offers the orange covering of its nut to blue jays and squirrels.

Let the leaves fall and lay around your trees and brown thrashers, worm eating warblers and other birds will be seen picking through the leaf litter for insects. Even hummingbirds flip leaves looking for tiny insects. If there are any native shrubs in the area, the seeds will be dropped by roosting birds and you will have a free, natural looking planting under your tree. No need to decide what would look natural in this case. In fact, much of our yard has planted itself from the seeds of our installed native plants being carried away by birds and squirrels.

Just get a start with a few wild coffee, marlberry, bloodberry, beautyberry and oaks and you will be surprised at how many seedlings germinate in favorable locations. It is rare to have to pull one up and you will soon have a real concentration of birds in your yard.