Creating Your Bird Friendly Home Habitat

Cultivate native plants that offer food and shelter for birds.

Birds need a variety of plants for both shelter and food. A simple landscaping rule of thumb for creating good bird habitat is: “minimize lawn, maximize plant diversity.”

Some native plants that produce fruit for birds include Chokecherry, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Serviceberry, Wax Currant and Wild Plum. Contact your
local county extension offi ce to fi nd out what fl owers, shrubs, bushes and trees grow best in your neighborhood.

  • Native plants also attract insects for birds to eat—now that’s sustainable!
  • Trimming hedges discourages nesting birds.
  • Dead or downed wood is attractive to birds for shelter and for food storage. If dead trees or brush piles are not an eyesore or a hazard, leave them.
  • Plant shrubs and bushes in groupings, (rather than in rows or far apart) which will encourage birds to forage, nest and use them for shelter. Plantings provide cover for feeding and nesting.
  • Letting some areas “go wild” is a good way to encourage a greater diversity of birds to come to your yard.
  • Mulch encourages birds to forage for insects and grubs that live in the mulch.

Provide bird baths.

Water is an important resource for birds. Water, especially if it’s moving, will attract more birds to your yard. When considering what type of bird bath to provide,
remember a few guidelines:

  • Find one with edges that slope gradually, rather than with a deep lip.
  • Find one with a rough-textured surface to provide better footing.
  • Consider one that has tiers with recirculating water, and put gravel in one tier to provide a wading area.
  • Or, make a recycled bird bath by reusing gallon jugs or other containers, or hang a shallow dish from a tree or an overhang.
  • Place the bath within 15 to 20 feet of shelter or under a tree to provide birds with a quick getaway when predators appear.
  • Replace water every other day for sanitary purposes and to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.

Provide a variety of bird feeders and food.

Your local county extension offi ce can assist you with tailoring your backyard to the birds that inhabit your area. Your neighborhood ecology and migration
patterns will help you decide on the appropriate feeders and food for your yard. Different birds forage at diff erent heights and prefer diff erent kinds of feeders (from platform to hopper to tube feeders) and diets (from seed to suet, nectar to fruit). Suet is a fat that many birds enjoy, especially in winter when food is scarce. You can:

  • Smear suet on trees.
  • Put suet on pine cones and hang them from tree branches.
  • Recycle mesh bags to use as suet feeders.
  • Make your own suet. Peanut butter is a great substitute for the animal fat used by commercial companies. You can fi nd a variety of easy recipes
    on the Internet.

Change the feed regularly to keep it from becoming stale, sprouting or rotting. Clean your feeders once a month or so to reduce the possibility of spreading disease (hummingbird feeders should be cleaned at least once a week).  Some food ideas:

  • Black oil sunflower seed is a favorite of many birds (buying hulled seed will help prevent a mess on the ground);
  • Finches and pine siskins like nyjer (niger) seed; jays, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers go for peanuts;
  • Ground-feeding birds such as doves, juncos and buntings like millet; use a low platform feeder just a few inches off the ground, and only put out as much seed as the birds will eat in a day.
  • Be creative in feeding your birds: natural and unprocessed

Be creative in feeding your birds: natural and unprocessed foods are the best – including berries and oranges, which orioles really enjoy.

Provide grit.

Because birds don’t have teeth, grit is stored in their crops and used to grind food, which helps digestion. You may have seen a bird alongside a road collecting grit. An easy way to provide grit is to crush some egg shells (bake or boil to sanitize) into tiny pieces and place them next to your feeder.

Check out the Guide to Backyard Birds for more ideas, plant and bird lists, and tips to enhance your bird-friendly habitat even more!