People love to go to botanical gardens this time of year – and not just to see spring blooms. Birds are returning (take a look out your window), and gardens are a big draw for making nests and getting nourishment.
Birds & Blooms magaine has compiled a list of the “birdiest” botanical destinations. Here’s an abridged version of their choices:
Tohono Chul Park, in Tucson, Ariz., has easy walking trails and gardens to view some of the 140 bird species that visit the 49-acre Sonoran Desert site. A hummingbird garden attracts Costa’s and Anna’s hummingbirds year-round to sip nectar from salvia, desert willow and other plants. The Wildlife Garden features saguaro cacti where Gila woodpeckers build nests in spring.
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The Desert Botanical Garden, in Phoenix, features a Desert Wildflower Loop Trail where you can watch hummingbirds. Greater roadrunners nest elsewhere on the 140-acre site. Guided bird walks are held most Mondays.
Favorites for city birds
At Smithsonian Gardens Urban Bird Habitat, in Washington, D.C., you can learn about urban birds. The staff recently repurposed a dying lacebark pine tree into a nesting, foraging and roosting spot for birds like woodpeckers. Native prairie flowers provide seeds to hungry finches and other seedeaters.
Avondale Park Rose and Habitat Garden, in Birmingham, Ala., is being upgraded with 84 planting beds to attract birds. Volunteers also have installed a prairie garden in the Birmingham Museum of Art Prairie Habitat, where birds feast on plant seeds.
Attracting migratory birds
Chicago Botanic Garden, in Glencoe, Ill., attracts waves of migratory songbirds, including sparrows and warblers in spring and fall. The garden covers 385 acres.
Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pa., hosts birding tours year-round that focus on migrants. Warblers pass through in April and May.
Best birding trails
Huntsville Botanical Gardens’ Lewis Birding Trail in Huntsville, Ala., has an active purple martin colony, a bluebird trail and feeder stations. Purple martins return each spring and can be seen flying in and out of man-made nest boxes and feeding their noisy young.
Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables, Fla., features the James A. Kushlan Bird Walk. Go online to see a map of the two walking loops and which birds you can find at various stops.