birds

A garden of color and movement — from birds

Paul Cramer may live in a “typical suburban house,” as he says, but his garden is not. It is graced with color and movement that comes not just from plants, but from birds.

He bought the home when it was brand new and unlandscaped in 1976 and, over the years, has designed – and sometimes redesigned – the front and back gardens.

You can find citrus, abutilon, canna lilies, ferns, begonias, succulents, grasses, dahlias, and even a few evergreen topiaries in the landscape along with destinations.

In the front, there’s a secluded seating area, protected from the street view; in the back, a shade structure shelters a hot tub, a pair of chairs pulled up to a fire pit near the waterfront and a raised keyhole vegetable garden.

“My gardens are like individual rooms, each with its own character and ambiance,” he explains. “Music streams in with several volume controls all around the yard.”

An artificial lawn centers the back garden, separating the house and the deck from the lagoon where Cramer moors his boats and where resident ducks, geese and other water birds gather, feed and float.

It’s Cramer’s charming flocks of 125 exotic birds, mostly native to Australia and Africa — small elegant diamond doves, colorful Lady Gouldian rainbow finches, brightly hued red factor canaries and diminutive buttonquail  — that are the garden’s main attraction, though.

“Each species has, of course, different and fascinating songs, plumage and courtship behaviors,” he says. “Some actually do a little dance to attract a mate. Like wild birds, some can also be rather aggressive to other birds, particularly when guarding one of the 30 nesting locations in the aviary.

“My 25 ground birds (buttonquail) are the tiniest quail in the world and are just fun to watch,” he says. “They live in