Want to make your backyard a welcome haven for birds? Just putting up a bird feeder is one easy bird attractor. If you want to satisfy more than birds' nutritional needs, consider landscaping your yard— even just a part of it— to be bird-friendly. Even a small yard can provide important avian habitat. All it takes is a little time and effort, made all the easier if you already enjoy gardening.
The rewards are many— birds add color and music to your life year-round. Creating and preserving bird habitat has never been more important— as our population grows, suitable birding habitat is disappearing.
There are three basic things all birds need:
FOOD: Your yard can be landscaped to provide fruit, seeds, beneficial insects, and other small animals that provide food for birds.
WATER: Birds need water
SHELTER: Whether it's weather protection, safe zones from predators, or nesting areas— providing shelter is one of the best ways to make your property more bird-friendly.
Look at your property from a bird's perspective. Consider adding or improving these bird friendly elements.
Here are some tips about the best plants to have around and other ways to enhance your backyard specifically for birds.
Birds look for environments providing the 3 basics: food, water, and shelter. Take a bird's-eye look at your backyard. Are there plants you can add or other ways enhance your yard to make it more bird-friendly?
Take stock of what you already have. Draw a map of your property including buildings and other structures, sidewalks, fences, trees, shrubs, and the location of feeders and nest boxes. Note sunny or shady sites, low or wet areas, sandy sites, and plants you want to keep. Make note of areas that can be improved.
Try including some of the important plant groups that are particularly valuable for birds:
2. Grasses and legumes
3. Nectar-producing plants
4. Summer-fruiting plants
5. Fall-fruiting plants
6. Winter-persistent plants
7. Nut and acorn plants
Looking for diversity? Plants provide a diversity of birds with various foods in the form of flower buds, fruit, seeds, nectar, or sap, as well as nest sites and nesting materials. Not all food plants appeal to all birds, so the variety of plants will attract a variety of birds.
Remember to select plants appropriate for your yard's light and soil conditions. Consider how big a new plant might eventually grow, and avoid surprises years later! Just because a plant is beneficial to some birds, doesn't mean you have to plant it in a place that won't support it.
Native plants for your area are more likely to thrive than imported exotics, plus they offer the foods best suited to the birds passing through.
Keep birds coming back. Select plant varieties producing bird foods throughout the seasons. For winter residents as well as migratory birds passing through, plants holding their fruits throughout the winter are important food sources.
To create a bird-friendly landscape provide the birds with a guaranteed, year-round food supply. Plant assortments of plant species that develop seeds, berries, nuts, and other food throughout the year. A diverse selection ensures a variety of food sources are available. Choose different plantings that produce food suitable for birds throughout each of the four seasons. In the fall, don't be too quick to remove all the dead flowers from your landscape. Many of those flowers are rich sources of seeds which the birds will locate throughout the colder months as foods become more scarce.
Organic gardening is another ingredient in any landscape that encourages birds. A natural organic garden or landscape is full of insects that birds enjoy. Many insects thriving in an organic landscape are also beneficial.
Organic gardening creates a healthy ecosystem that is in balance with nature. Birds attracted to your landscape will also help control many garden pests including insects such as gnats and mosquitos. Instead of fighting a losing war against pests and diseases with an arsenal of chemicals, hold back on those chemicals and let nature take its course. Preventive techniques like building healthy soil are an important first lines of defense against pests.
Except for open country birds, most birds won't stray far from dense cover. Their lives depend upon quick evasion and hiding ability. Birds frequently occupy dense areas with weeds or brush, even though you may not notice them. The tangled branches of brush piles are also favored to prevents cats or hawks from making surprise attacks.
Protective cover is also vital when birds are sleeping or waiting out bad weather. Conifers and other evergreens, as well as dense deciduous plants, shelter roosting birds from predators and wind, rain, and snow. Needle and broad-leaved evergreen trees and shrubs, such as white pines, arborvitae, spruce, junipers, cedars and hollies provide essential winter protection as well as food.
Having dense thickets where birds can nest, perch, and escape from predators. Plant shrubs, a hedge, or training vines over fence lines also helps. Create areas of thick, wild growth to imitate a natural environment.
If it's safe, try leaving dead limbs and trees in place. Insects living under the bark and in the decaying wood are important bird food sources for woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. Cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds and woodpeckers need old, hollow trees to nest in. To make a dead tree prettier, consider planting native vines, that will climb up the dead tree trunk.
Recycle dead branches to start a brush pile for ground-dwelling birds like sparrows and towhees. It gives the small birds protection from cold weather and predators. Lay down several thick branches to form a base, leaving gaps, then add thinner branches over the top. Add your old Christmas tree if you have one.
If you hate tidying up your yard in fall, birds will love you for it. If you grow annuals, especially daisy-relatives such as purple coneflowers, black-eyed susan's, and sunflowers, leave the dead seed heads on them when they fade—goldfinches, redpolls, and other seed-eaters will eat the seeds throughout the winter. Instead of bagging fallen leaves, rake them under your shrubs to act as mulch. They'll harbor insects that ground-dwelling birds will find, too. And, come spring, those dead leaves, grasses, and plant stems will be a treasure for birds searching for nest material.
Supplemental bird feeders and bird baths concentrate large numbers of birds where you can see and appreciate them. After gardening, wild bird feeding is the most popular hobby in North America. People of all ages are fascinated by watching birds at bird feeders.