Literally. I mean besides the obvious fact that birds eat sunflower seeds. Sunflowers are, in every way, for the birds. Sure, they’re beautiful eye candy that adds a pop of color to any yard or garden, and the insects LOVE them. Bees, hover flies, June bugs, Assassin bugs, beetles of all kinds; you name it. But, to our feathered friends sunflowers are so much more than beautiful sustenance. Sunflowers are food, shelter, hunting ground and social hour, all in one.
Last fall I participated in multiple seed swaps and received a wide variety of sunflower seeds. I chose to plant a variety called Red Sun. Sometimes when you participate in a seed swap, the seeds you receive are exactly as advertised. Sometimes, they are not. This can be frustrating or it can be a pleasant surprise. (I’d say I’m a half-full person but I’m a scientist so unless we’re in a vacuum the glass is always full.) In this case, my Red Sun sunflowers that are touted as a 5-6 foot tall red sunflower with multiple blooms per plant ended up being more than 8 feet tall and they are a mix of red and orange blooms. I am not unhappy with this result, but my birds are THRILLED. The flowers are in a raised bed, roughly 12 inches off the ground, which puts these blossoms several feet taller than the top of our fence.
I cannot tell you how many times a day I look out to see birds seeking refuge from the sizzling sun under the broad leaves of my towering sunflowers. I see them chasing down insects (the hunt gets intense sometimes) and socializing with other birds. Young fledglings that are just getting used to life outside the nest often hide there from other more intimidating birds. The tip top branches provide the perfect vantage point for small birds seeking an opportune moment to snag some seed from the feeder below. My sunflowers, in their own right, are a small habitat. It dawned on me this morning that while I have discussed how valuable the birds are to your garden I failed to mention how invaluable your garden is to the birds. If all of this was created with just three small seeds, imagine what the rest of my garden provides.
If you look out your window and find your garden looking a bit unruly do NOT feel guilty about neglecting it. That unkempt environment is a highly sought after oasis for all kinds of wildlife, including the birds. They need it. So, sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee (Okay, wine. I meant wine.) and fuss over tidying up the garden another day. Today the birds will play!