Easy Gardening Hacks to Bring More Birds to Your Yard
By Christina Larson, Owner of Guilford Garden Center
Few things are more delightful than bird-watching off your deck or patio, or just right through the kitchen window. Have you enjoyed discovering a Wren’s nest in spring, watched as Bluebirds taught their babies to fly, or marveled at watching who uses your birdbath? Here are some simple steps you can take to increase the diversity and quantity of birds in your yard.
Add a bird feeder or two, or three! Which birds do you want to bring up close? Different types of seed attract different birds, and different types of feeders are designed to handle those various seed types, such as Cardinal favorite Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (tube, mesh, and open platform feeders) or seed blends like Cole’s Special Feeder™ that attracts a wide variety of birds, including woodpeckers. For Finches, a special thistle feeder or “sock” designed to contain the tiny seeds is necessary to contain them until the birds are ready to eat.
But, do wild birds really need our help? Can’t they find their own food? In a native landscape, plants and insects typically provide a bountiful habitat, but in our urban and suburban settings, native plants are not as plentiful as necessary for optimal survival of our avian nesting population. We can help improve their chances by putting native plants back into the landscape, since the insects they attract will become food for both adult and baby birds. This means tolerating some insect pressure – chewed leaves may mean that caterpillars are using the plant, and many will become bird food. Many birds also favor berries, so plants like Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood Viburnum) and Aronia arbutifolia (Chokeberry) should be among those considered for your bird garden. Bonus reasons for adding natives are the shelter they can provide, and that the plant material itself can be gathered by parent birds as they make their nests – Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), for example, provides caterpillars for food and plant fibers for nests.
Housing Authority: Consider adding a birdhouse or two to your landscape both for their useful and decorative appeal. Baffles will keep snakes and other predators from attacking.
Don’t forget the watering hole! A decorative birdbath can be a real focal point in the garden - a beautiful accent even without the wildlife that adds entertainment value. If birds can’t find water in your landscape, they’ll have to go elsewhere for it. Might as well accommodate them! As a bonus, placing a flat stone partially submerged in the water will allow butterflies to access the water as well. Just be sure to keep the water fresh and clean for our feathered friends.
14 local plant recommendations for your native bird garden:
Hummingbirds: Black & Blue Salvia, Cardinal Flower
Finches: Black-Eyed Susans, Coneflowers
Cardinals: Dogwood, Raspberries
Cedar Waxwings: Serviceberries, Winterberry
Bluejays: Oaks, Beeches
Bluebirds: Crabapple, Dogwood
Nuthatches: Maples, Pines