Now that our days are characterized by low humidity and cool temperatures, it finally does feel like autumn. While the weather has changed, the complexion of our gardens has been undergoing a major transformation. Those of us that try to provide wild pollinators with food throughout as much of the year as possible still have an abundance of nectar-bearing flowers in full bloom. However, alongside them are the dried seed heads of plants that bloomed earlier in the year. Although our first impulse is often to remove these plants, I wish you would consider leaving at least a portion of them for birds that feed predominantly on seeds.
The list of the flowering plants that produce seeds eaten by birds is quite long. Here is a short list of some of the more popular plants that produce nutritious seeds for birds: black-eyed susan, coneflower, cosmos, aster, scarlet sage, zinnia, coreopsis, and blanket flower.
Birds will eat these seeds directly from seed heads or when the seeds fall to the ground. In addition, it matters not whether the plants grew in containers on a deck or patio or in a traditional garden.
My wife and I have truly enjoyed watching cardinals and American goldfinches feeding on scarlet sage and zinnia seeds produced by plants grown in large containers on our deck.
It never ceases to amaze me how a cardinal can pick up a tiny scarlet sage with its large beak.
Among the birds that do not miss a chance to eat the seeds of nectar plants during the fall and winter are the northern cardinal, dark-eyed junco, chipping sparrow, and American goldfinch.
If you do, you will be providing your autumn/winter avian visitors with a great source of food. Meanwhile, you will enjoy watching the fascinating behavior of birds foraging for flower seeds.