As wildlife habitats are threatened by development, the creation of a bird-friendly environment that provides food, water and shelter is crucial to the existence of our wild bird population. Caring for our feathered-friends is an educational and enjoyable activity for the entire family that brings beauty and song to our lives.
Benefits of Wild Birds
Birds are great guests to have in your yard, garden or landscape, and they provide more benefits than many homeowners and gardeners realize. Wild birds can…
- Control insects by feasting on both flying and crawling insects, as well as spiders, slugs, snails and other creepy-crawlies.
- Pollinate plants by flitting from flower to flower as they seek out insects or eat seeds, taking pollen along between blooms.
- Manage weeds as they consume copious amounts of weed seeds before the seeds ever have a chance to sprout.
- Control rodents when raptors visit the yard in search of mice, rats, gophers, voles or other unwanted pests.
Attracting Backyard Birds
Fortunately, it is easy to attract a wide variety of backyard birds when you offer them what they need most – food, water and shelter.
Food for Birds
Wild birds rely on both natural and supplemental food supplies so it is important to consider both when birdscaping. Feeding the birds is most important in the winter when natural food is scarcer, but they will visit feeders at any time of year. Migratory birds require additional food in the spring and fall as they pass through the region and nesting birds will utilize feeders in the summer.
- Provide a variety of natural foods for birds by planting berry bushes, seed-bearing flowers, nectar-rich flowers and sunflowers. Leave windfall fruit on the ground for birds to nibble. Minimize pesticide use so birds can feast on insects as well.
- Add supplemental feeders to your yard, such as birdseed feeders, suet feeders and nectar feeders. Clean feeders weekly to avoid mold that can be dangerous to birds, and be sure feeders are full when birds need them most.
Improve your backyard bird habitat by adding water. Birds require a constant supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. This is especially important in late summer, when water is scarce, and in the winter, when it is frequently frozen.
- Place bird baths in a protected location safe from predators, and keep the baths filled at all times so a fresh supply of water is constantly available.
- Scrub off algae as soon as it is appears and thoroughly was the bird bath each week to minimize feces contamination or other messes in the water.
- Provide motion for greater attraction by using a bubbler, wiggler, dripper or fountain. Birds will see the sparkles of the moving water and will hear the splashes from great distances, so more birds will visit.
- Use Mosquito Dunks to safely prevent mosquito larvae in warm weather. A clean bird bath with moving water will also harbor fewer insects.
- Add an outdoor-safe submersible heater to the bath in winter to keep the water liquid instead of frozen, or consider using a fully heated bird bath during the coldest months.
It is important to offer safe and comfortable shelter for your wild birds to nurture their young, protect them from predators and shield them from the elements. Planting evergreen trees and shrubs and providing bird houses, along with roosting boxes and pockets, are all beneficial additions to your birdscape.
- Choose both deciduous and evergreen landscaping trees and shrubs to offer birds different types of shelter in all seasons.
- Minimize pruning to give birds denser, more secure shelter to take advantage of when they feel threatened.
- Plant in layers and create thicket-like pockets or corridors in your landscape so birds can move around freely without feeling exposed.
- Supplement the shelter in your yard with good quality bird houses, winter roost boxes or nesting pockets to give birds even more options to stay safe and secure.
When you meet birds’ needs for food, water and shelter, your birdscape will soon be home to a fun and friendly flock of backyard birds.
Attracting Birds to your Backyard
It’s amazing how many birds you can attract to your garden if you invite them with the right plants and shelter. And, when you have birds, you not only have the enjoyment of watching them, but you have less insects in the garden!
BRING BIRDS WITH BERRIES
To bring birds to your backyard, plant as many of these berry-producing shrubs as possible:
- Barberry (Berberis)
- Bearberry (Arctostaphylos)
- Beautiberry (Callicarpa)
- Chokeberry (Aronica)
- Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)
- Firethorn (Pyracantha)
- Holly (Ilex)
- Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia)
- Privet (Ligustrum)
- Rose (Rosa)
- Crabapple (Malus)
- Viburnum (Viburnum)
SEDUCE THEM WITH SEEDS
Birds love seeds. Fill your garden with these favorites:
- Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
- Columbine (Aquilegia)
- Foxglove (Digitalis)
- Globe Thistle (Echinops)
- Goldenrod (Solidago)
- Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
- Tickseed (Coreopsis)
FINDING A SPOT FOR YOUR FEEDERS
To attract as many different types of birds as possible, use different feeders and scatter them throughout your garden. Be sure to place them in a protected area (away from strong winds). And, most birds will prefer a sunny location. Birds have many predators…including your cat. Place your feeder within 5 to 10 feet of protective cover so birds can seek shelter if needed.
PROVIDING WATER FOR THE BIRDS
Birds seem to prefer birdbaths placed at ground level. Providing water, especially during winter can be a great benefit to your feathered friends. Arrange a few perches in the birdbath using small branches with stones so birds can perch and drink without getting wet in winter.