Nine Tips for Better Bird Habitat

A bird-friendly landscape meets all of a bird’s needs: food, shelter, water and nesting habitat. As birds fly overhead, they see highly textured landscapes as a signal that a diversity of plants, better opportunity for food, and safe foraging cover are available.

Bird in Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). Photo by Jim Wohl.

1 – Reduce the Lawn Area.
Large expanses of turf lawn are dead-zones because the space is not useful to the life cycle of many animals or insects. The addition of native shrubs can quickly and easily reduce lawn area, and sends a signal of abundance to birds flying overhead.    

2 – Include Native Plants.
Native plants should be the basis of a bird-friendly yard. Birds recognize them for insect and seed sources, and the native plant material is aligned with the nesting habits of our native bird species.

3 – Layered, Dense Vegetation.
Some birds forage on the ground for food, while others find food in low shrubbery. Some birds nest in grasses, while others nest in trees. Even the same bird species will frequently use different heights and layers of vegetation for feeding, roosting and nesting. Dense vegetation shields smaller birds from predators, and is also more suitable for roosting and nesting. Densely layered vegetation, that includes native shrubs and or trees, is more likely to attract permanent residents, instead of transient guests. One large planting area filled with the right plants is better than small planting beds, widely scattered.

4 – Plant Diversity.
Include a wide range of plants, and consider the seasons during which each plant is most useful. Early flowering plants attract insects and provide nectar during the spring, while those with desirable seeds or nuts are essential sources of food in late summer and fall.

5 – Avoid Extensive Pruning.
Avoid over-pruning shrubs and hedgerows, especially in spring when birds will be nesting there. The protection offered by a hedgerow or thicket is important to their safety and survival.

6 – Leave the Leaves.
Don’t over do it on the clean-up! Birds rely on dead plant material in so many ways. Leaf litter, long grass and brush piles provide nesting material, but are also vitally important for the insects they harbor, which are so critical for raising their young.

7 – Leave Plants Standing.
Always let your native plants stand through the winter. Birds will eat the seeds of perennials. If a tree dies on your property, leave the trunk standing for cavity nesting birds. Depending on the location, the branches may need to be removed for safety concerns, but leave the trunk whenever possible.

8 – Water.
Birds need water for bathing and drinking. Even puddles where rainwater accumulates can attract birds. If you have clay soil, even a shallow hole that fills with rainwater will be useful. Whether a birdbath, a water feature or ground level puddles, the addition of water in any form will benefit life in the garden. Include water, anyway you can!

9 – Bird-Friendly Garden Care.
Avoid pesticide (insecticide) use! Insect support is bird support. Insects are rich in protein and a necessary food for birds, especially as they are raising their young. Choose natural and organic fertilizers that will not harm birds.

U-Pick Bird-Friendly Habitat:  Custom 32-Plant Tray…

Shop for Native Shrubs for Wildlife Gardens…

Pre-Planned Songbird Gardens…