We live 30 stories above ground and enjoy a long narrow balcony. We would love to attract smaller birds but at the same time, repel the ubiquitous pigeon population. How could we try this?
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your interesting question about attracting smaller birds to your 30 story balcony. From a Master Gardener’s perspective, the best way to attract birds to a balcony is with a pollinator garden in containers focused on native plants. In addition to being pollinators, birds need insects as a crucial part of their diet. More nectar from flowers means more insects which means more birds. The Toronto Master Gardeners have many resources related to native plants on our website. See Native Plants in the list across the top of our main webpage. We also have these Garden Guides that might be helpful: Pollinator Garden, Container Gardening, also available on our website.
Critical for success with any balcony garden is knowing the exposure, in particular the wind and sun. The higher up you are, the colder and windier it will be. Wind can be devastating, so you will need to plan for windbreaks and shelters, whether with manmade structures or plants. Western or afternoon sun is the hottest exposure. Northern exposure means full shade. If your balcony has overhang from the floor above, this will affect the amount of rainfall your garden will have (and how much watering you will need to do). Plant choices need to be made based on garden conditions. Typically the hardiness zone of your balcony plants will need to be at least 2 zones lower than for gardeners on the ground, so you will be looking for hardiness zone 4 plants in the Toronto area. Freeze/thaw cycles are one of the biggest challenges with container gardening. The Toronto Master Gardeners have already answered many questions about this. Just type ‘overwintering’ in the Search box on our main webpage to see our previous responses.
Having said all of this, here is a question for the Master Birder (not me): Do smaller birds fly up 30 stories in the air? As a non-birder most of the birds that visit my feeders are in the tree canopy or in shrubs closer to the ground. Perhaps you will discover the answer to this if you decide to go ahead with planning a pollinator garden in containers on your balcony. Or you might end up with a lovely pollinator garden but no birds.
And a question for the Master Gardener: How high will pollinators (insects) fly? There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer, but here is one answer to a previous questions about this sent to the Toronto Master Gardeners:
And in a recent article in Fine Gardening: According to scientists, bees can fly up to 30,000 feet, which is higher than the peak of Mount Everest. Again, possibly you will discover your answer to this question or just a have lovely garden.
All the best in your efforts to attract smaller birds to your balcony.