Attracting a variety of birds to your backyard takes more than adding a few bird feeders or filling a bird bath—a bird-friendly landscape should fulfill all of a wild bird’s basic needs, including food, shelter, water, and nesting sites. With these keys to the right habitat, your backyard can attract a wide range of popular birds.
The best types of plants to use to attract local birds are the plants they are most familiar with. Native landscaping uses local and regional trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses, and those are the same plants that birds recognize as rich food sources and appropriate shelter. Exotic plants may be beautiful, but if the birds do not like plants they will not be attracted to them.
Landscaping with native plants is also beneficial because those plants are adapted to the local climate. They will require less water, less fertilizer, and lower maintenance to stay beautiful and healthy.
To learn what plants are native to your area and how best to use them in your yard, visit a local nursery, consult with an experienced landscaper or contact a local plant conservatory or nature garden for assistance.
A bird-friendly landscape is one that offers different layers of plants for different birds to use. When many species of birds live in the same region, they adapt to using different areas of the available habitat. Some birds may prefer foraging on the ground for food, while others seek out food sources in low shrubbery. Some birds may nest in bushes, while others prefer tall trees and greater heights. Even the same bird species will frequently use different heights and layers of vegetation for feeding, roosting, and nesting.
To provide layers of vegetation in your backyard, choose plants that will grow to different heights and space them appropriately to create a tiered effect. Larger, taller trees can be surrounded by moderately sized shrubs, which can, in turn, be bordered by tall grasses or low flowers. This will give many bird species attractive places to visit in your yard without feeling crowded or competing for space.
Birds will feel more secure and safe when there is adequate shelter in your backyard. To provide that shelter, create dense areas of vegetation that will shield smaller birds from hawks, cats, or other predators. Dense vegetation is also more suitable for roosting and nesting, which can make your backyard birds permanent residents instead of transient guests.
To add density to your landscaping, create clumps of vegetation and corridors of security that birds can use. A long, narrow bed filled with rich plants is more suitable than small, widely scattered beds. The corners of your yard and borders around buildings are perfect for dense vegetation, or you can create independent beds that are thickly layered.
Different birds prefer different types of plants, and if you choose to landscape with a wider range of plant species you will also be able to attract more types of birds. You can choose specific plants that are favored by certain birds you wish to attract or opt for plants that are favorable to the birds already visiting your yard.
When choosing a range of plants, consider the seasons during which each plant is most useful. Early flowering shrubs will attract insects and provide nectar during the spring, while trees and bushes that produce nuts and fruit are essential sources of food in late summer and fall. Evergreen trees and shrubs will not only produce cones and seeds but are also superb sources of shelter in the cold winter months.
Reduce Open Areas
Because a wide range of diverse plants in thick layers is so essential for attracting birds, one of the best steps you can take to create a bird habitat in your backyard is to reduce the open, grassy spaces. Open areas have the least food and virtually no shelter, making them poor resources for birds as well as being vulnerable to predators. Widen flower beds, plant trees, and add shrubbery instead of grass. Not only will you be rewarded with a yard rich in birds, but you will find less need to mow and trim the grass.
Mess is Best
A bird-friendly landscape is never perfectly manicured and neatly trimmed. Leaf litter, longer grass, and discarded brush piles are highly attractive to birds because they are rich sources of insects, nesting material, and shelter. By mimicking the appearance of birds’ natural habitats, you can instantly make your yard more appealing. This does not mean that your yard has to be a jungle, however. Leaving some areas of your landscape in their natural state, particularly in a large lot, can attract a wide range of birds while you can still enjoy manicured landscaping elsewhere.
One highly effective way to attract birds to a natural landscape is to let flowers and shrubs go to seed without removing the plants. Birds will eat the seed, which is also a great way for backyard birders to enjoy a healthy landscape and save money on birdseed.
More Bird Landscaping Tips
When you are planning a bird-friendly landscape…
- Choose natural and organic fertilizers that will not harm birds, or remove feeders for a day or two after chemicals have been used.
- Minimize pesticide use and let the bugs be a rich bird food source instead.
- Add water features, birdhouses, dust baths, or feeding stations for even more bird attractors.
- Have your soil evaluated to be sure the plants you select will thrive and choose plants suitable for the amount of sun in your yard.
- If you are hiring a landscaper, let them know you wish to attract birds and work closely with them to design a suitable bird habitat.