Maybe it was because we’d been cooped up for much of the past year, but traveling the country this summer, we were swept away whenever we spotted birds and flowers together. It was like we were seeing them for the first time.
Birds and flowers have a longstanding relationship – going back at least 50 million years, as we’ll explain in a moment. They rely on one another for food, pollination, seed dispersal and nesting materials. They also make the most striking portraits, so much so that we started gathering photos from Florida to California, Hawaii to Kansas. Here’s just a fraction of the scenes we saw.
Flowers are like a dining room for birds. They can find nectar, insects, seeds and buds, a kind of smorgasbord in the right seasons. Birds return the favor by spreading around the pollen the flowers need for reproduction and dispersing the plant’s seeds after consuming them and expelling them as they make their daily rounds.
The connection between flowers and birds isn’t new. We came across this precious fact in reading up on flowers and birds: Scientists in Germany found a fossil of a bird that included remnants of pollen the bird had consumed back in the Cretaceous period 47 million years ago, they announced in a study published in the journal Biology Letters. How many of us can brag of relationships that go back even half that far?
One of the stars of the flower landscape, of course, is the hummingbird. These tiny, 4-gram acrobats are famous for their ability to drink their weight in nectar each day. (Here’s our most popular hummingbird post). While the birds love feeders, our favorite encounters are when hummingbirds go straight to the flowers for their nectar.
A final note: You can use flowers and plants to attract birds to your yard. You can go after hummingbirds, for instance, with red flowers such as begonias, geraniums and petunias. Sunflowers will attract songbirds. Here’s the Audubon Society’s guidance on 10 native plants that will bring birds to you. Here’s a good post from Nextavenue on how to build your own bird sanctuary by choosing the right flowers, plants and trees. And here’s a post on how to attract hummingbirds to your yard.