Gardening for the Birds

There are specific plants you can place in your garden or landscaping to attract particular birds or you can let a garden patch run wild to attract all kinds of birds. There are a few features that you should include in your landscaping as well, to ensure a happy collection of feathered friends.

One major item any living creature needs is water. Obvious, but often forgotten when considering attracting transitory creatures to your yard and garden. A naturally occurring pond or stream would be wonderful; however, most of us are not that lucky. A birdbath that is kept full might be the most esthetically pleasing option, but just about any man made water feature, or even a small plastic bird pool, would do the job while still being made to look nice. If you are putting in a water feature or using a birdbath to offer the necessary water then be sure that it is around ten feet from any dense shrubby or places predators might hide. Your intent is to help the birds, not to provide a playground and buffet for the neighborhood cats.

Birds also need a steady and safe food source. Trees, shrubs that produce berries and plenty of feeding stations around the area are needed. If you want cedar waxwings to visit your yard, keep in mind that they love the berries on hawthorn trees. Robins favor mountain ash trees, but are generally easy to please. Mocking birds, sparrows and cardinals will linger in just about any fruit tree, although Japanese persimmons and similar trees will encourage the birds to stick around into the Fall. Conifer trees are attractive to many species of birds. Other popular plants among birds of various species include serviceberry, dogwood trees, oak trees, and grasses. Avoid using any plants that are considered invasive plants in your area. However, both lists will change based on your location and climate. When in doubt, check with your local nursery or Audubon Society for information on which plants you should use or avoid.

Do not worry too much if you are lacking trees that your favorite birds love. Trees are often hard to add to landscaping because of space restrictions and previous landscaping, the birds will understand. If you supply enough feeding stations and plant growth that they enjoy they will still come visit. However, make sure that you keep our feeding stations clean and mold free. Sunflower seeds are a favorite for most seed eating birds, but there are specific blends available for many types of birds, while suet feeders are popular among insect eating birds. Make sure that you are using food that the birds you have in your yard, or want to have in your yard, can eat and enjoy. You also need to remember is that since so many birds eat insects it is important to avoid using any insecticides. Not only do they kill off a major food source but they can also cause harm, or even kill the visiting birds.

Birds lingering in your yard also need some cover in which to hide. Shrubbery, trees and vines that might allow a bird to hide for a wide variety of predators is extremely important. Some birds will make their nests in the cover, or in the safety of a tree. Birdhouses, nesting boxes, and other forms of man made assistance might be helpful, however if there is enough natural cover for the birds they are not a necessity. You might also want to make a change in your larger plan for your yard. Hold off on removing any dead trees, as long as they pose no danger of falling and causing damage. Dead trees are a great hiding place, nesting place and source of food for a variety of creatures. You might also want to create a brush pile somewhere on your property, which some birds will use to nest, hunt or roost. Build up a sturdy shelter starting with large logs on the bottom and building up with smaller sticks and branches on top. Make sure to leave plenty of nooks and crannies inside the shelter to allow birds, and other creatures, to move around in.

There may be no possible way for you to meet all a bird’s requirements in your lawn and garden. You might live in a condominium or have a yard prohibitive to making changes in order to attract more birds. However, a few small changes in offering more food and nesting areas can help encourage birds to stop and visit you. As long as their other needs are met in a nearby area, they will be able to stick around. If you are unsure as to which plants and trees might be best in your area, I suggest visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website. It offers a search feature with will list native trees, shrubs and other plants to use in your garden based on your specific region and state. The search feature also allows users to limit by plant type, color, growth height and lifespan among other specifics so that you can find exactly what you need. For further information and resources on creating a bird, and general wildlife, friendly habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife website. For more information on the birds in your area, and how you can attract and care for them, I suggest contacting your local Audubon Society .