How to Attract Wild Birds - Page 3
The Benefits of Your Backyard Habitat
Chipping Sparrow on oak branch.Variety is the key when landscaping for birds
Birds have different needs when it comes to vegetation. It provides cover (from bad weather and predators) and it also provides food and nesting locations.
While foraging, some birds like the tree canopies. Others skulk on the ground. Many will use medium-height perennials and annuals to glean invertebrates and seeds from dying flower heads.
EXPERIENCE SAYS: - If birds feel secure in your environment, they will eat, drink, roost and nest there. It is easy to create a shelter for birds that will be a constant source of surprise and seasonal renewal.
MULTI-LEVEL VEGETATION - The vegetation should graduate in size from tall trees to ground level. Tall trees, shorter "under story" trees and shrubs and then flowers, grasses and lawns will provide enough choice for protective cover. Try to create a natural transition. Even nervous birds will work their way into your yard if they can find enough cover.
NATIVE PLANTS - Native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees are the best choices. (More about Native Plants below.) Bird gardening does not demand an immaculate environment. Leaving dead seed heads on the native plants will feed birds during all seasons. You can always "explain" your little areas of deliberate neglect and win admiration from family and friends.
This does NOT mean that you should leave gardening debris behind. Do not drop snipped or pinched off leaves and flowers on the ground. You could create a pest and disease problem which could cause the ultimate destruction of the very habitat you created.
Native wildflower patches will appeal to birds because the birds have been familiar with these plants for generations. For some birds, migratory paths are probably influenced by reliable wildflower distribution from Canada to South America.
North American Native Plant Society
TALL NATIVE GRASSES - Some birds love to forage and nest in tall grasses. Native and ornamental grasses are easy to grow and the birds will appreciate them. If you can let an area of your property grow wild, the birds will appreciate the seed heads left on dying plants.
Prairie restoration is growing in popularity. Tall-grass, mixed-grass and short-grass prairies are important to wild birds.
USGS - Tall-Grass Prairie Butterflies and Birds
HEDGEROWS - Long stretches of hedgerows will encourage birds to live on your property. With enough diversity of evergreen shrubs, berries, thorny plants, fruit and nectar producing plants, you can attract and protect a multitude of wildlife.
WILDFLOWER MEADOWS - Wildflower meadows also provide food and cover for birds. If you have a large lawn that is no longer used by young children, you might consider creating a wildflower meadow instead. Stop mowing and start growing!
This doesn't mean that you have to be left with an empty patch of ground after the wildflowers are finished blooming. You might create a path to a sitting area in the center which has an evergreen accent or is surrounded by plants with all-year appeal.
Add some accents to the area:
- rustic homemade fencing
- bird feeders or bird houses
- a small pond or fountain
- copper wind spinners on shepherd's hooks
- scattered weathered wood
- sculpted wood statues
- rustic rock wall
- interesting rock designs
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
THICKET - Having an area of the yard that provides dense cover, is one of the best ways to bring birds closer. Close to our pond, under some oaks, we planted a tightly woven area of perennials and shrubs. More birds have used this area than any other area in my yard. Plants which offer berries are intermingled with flowering plants which attract insects.
The birds feel completely hidden underneath all the foliage and they stay for longer periods of time...I'm talking hours instead of minutes. Sometimes it takes a little more maneuvering to get a good look, but the birds feel so secure, they don't seem to mind my presence.
If you want to get a look at the birds just before they disappear into the thicket, add a taller feature which protrudes above the height of the shrubs. If you are lucky enough to have a small dead tree which extends higher than your leafy thicket, leave it alone. Birds will pause on the bare branches before disappearing into the thicket. Otherwise, devise some substitute. You'll be glad you did. Most birds will fly to and perch on this feature before dropping out of sight below the canopy.
BRUSH PILES - Building a branch and brush pile will provide good cover for wild birds. This can be in the shade or in the sun. Wrens love leaf litter and a brush pile. This is a good location to watch for ground feeding birds.
Word of warning: Keep children away! A brush pile also might provide cover for roof rats, skunks and other pests. Remember that birds can attract snakes. Watch from a distance and you won't disturb the birds.
VINES - Dense vines can provide excellent cover. They provide privacy for us as well as cover for the birds. They make attractive barriers and act as noise buffers also. Best of all, birds love them.
DEAD TREES AND SNAGS - Cavity nesting birds will be attracted to dead trees. If a tree has died of natural causes, consider leaving it for wildlife nesting. Plant attractive foliage around it.
Visit my Wildlife Gardening page for instructions for planting and growing trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, annuals and ground covers which attract birds and butterflies.
How to attract wild birds:
1. How to Attract Wild Birds - Introduction
2. Water Features
3. Backyard Habitat - Protective Cover & Nesting -- (you are here)
4. Feeding Wild Birds
Other sections of wild bird pages:
5. Wild Birds FAQ
6. Wild Birds Disease & Dangers
7. Injured Wild Birds - Links to Help
8. Wild Birds Photographs - ID Help
9. How to Attract Hummingbirds
Squirrel ResistantClick here
Wild Bird Feeders
Finch FeedersClick here
or nyjer seeds
Suet Bird FeedersClick here