Florida Scrub JayThis past week I had three speaking engagements. One was in Prescott, at the Yavapai County Master Gardeners monthly program. Two were in Kingman — at the Mohave County Master Gardeners monthly program, and at the Cerbat Garden Club’s 13th annual Fundraiser Luncheon.

In Prescott, I spoke on “Birds in the Garden.” In Kingman, I focused my remarks on the importance of creating a backyard habitat that is inviting to birds, with an emphasis on landscaping with native plants to attract native bird species. The title of my talk at the Cerbat Garden Club was “Attracting Native Birds to your Garden.” I think the key phrase is “Native Birds.”

Depending on where you live, it is not terribly difficult to attract birds to your yard. However, they may not necessarily be desirable birds. There are several non-native bird species that are firmly established in this area, including pigeons, Eurasian collared doves, European starlings and house sparrows.

I was asked at one of the presentations how to discourage pigeons from coming into one’s yard. My response was to fill the yard with native plants. Pigeons prefer urban environments, and, interestingly enough, they stay away from yards filled with native vegetation.

About a month ago, I went to Kingman to document examples of the native habitat in that area, as well as to observe good and bad examples of neighborhood landscaping. What I saw in Kingman is typical of most communities — there were some yards that were “landscaped” with decorative rock, while other yards had lots of trees and shrubs, creating places for birds to find food, seek shelter and rear young.

When I was back in Kingman this past week, I took a short walk in a residential area to see what kinds of bird species would be present. I was pleasantly surprised to tally 24 different bird species in just over 30 minutes. Some were non-native species, but many more were native bird species, such as hooded oriole, western kingbird, ladder-backed woodpecker, northern mockingbird, house finch and lesser goldfinch.

Kingman is far enough north that it lies in the Mohave Desert. However, there are certainly a lot of Sonoran Desert bird species that are common in and around the Kingman area. Some of the species I saw from this category were white-winged doves, curve-billed thrashers, cactus wrens, verdin, Gambel’s quail and Lucy’s Warblers. It was like being back in Tucson where I grew up!

I observed several western wood pewee there. This was a complete surprise for me, as I did not anticipate seeing pewees in Kingman. My only explanation for them being there was not based on habitat, but, rather, on migration. I suspect they were just passing through and would be moving on.

Based on my recent birding in Kingman, I have to say that I was impressed with the variety of birds in the area. Like the expression, “Build it and they will come,” the same can be said for creating a wildlife friendly yard. As you provide sources of food, water and shelter, particularly using native plants, I promise you the birds will come!

I invite you to attend the Prescott Audubon Society’s monthly meeting tonight, Thursday, May 26, at 7 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, located at 630 Park Ave. in Prescott. I will be presenting the program, and will be sharing pictures and stories of my recent trip to Belize. I hope you can come.

Until next week, Happy Birding!