Ideas & Inspiration
How to Create a Bird-Friendly Yard
Attract birds to your outdoor space and you’ll get fringe benefits. Birds can be welcome garden guests, bringing color and entertainment to our yards.
But they offer so much more, too, from pest control to education.
It’s true that birds peck and nibble on fruit trees and vegetable gardens. But they’re a vital part of our ecosystem.
Keep bird netting handy if your fine-feathered friends prefer to sample edibles in the garden.
It’s easy to create a bird-friendly garden by giving them three basic things: food, water and shelter.
Birds offer natural pest control because they gobble up grubs and insect pests.
In almost every corner of the country, swallows swoop in and snack on delicious bugs in their path during summer. Chickadees and their titmice cousins can be considered the pest-control heavyweights, even eating moth eggs in winter.
Bluebirds, native sparrows and wrens, too, will make meals of bugs. The above Eastern bluebird will chomp on beetles, weevils and sometimes ants, flies, sow bugs and snails.
Because birds feed on bugs in your garden, when you attract them to your outdoor space, the hope is you won’t need to reach for insecticidal soap or synthetic insecticides as much.
Birds like to snack on everything from flies and beetles to ants and more. The above American Robin is eating not just a worm but also an ant and grub.
By welcoming birds to your outdoor space, you’ll see how they aid pollination when they brush against plants with their feathers and feet. Hummingbirds, such as the female ruby-throated hummingbird above, will drink nectar from plant to plant, boosting pollination all around, including in the foxglove above. Consider planting also perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies and annuals such as cleome, impatiens and petunias.
By planting a garden for the birds, you’ll attract other pollinators, too, including bees, butterflies and more.
With our hectic lifestyles, we crave more relaxation. Just think of all the soothing sounds you’ll hear from the birds when you entice them to visit your yard or balcony.
Attract birds and you just might hear the cheery whistles of the American Robin, pictured above, or the cascading notes of a wren.
Create a nutritious “buffet” for the birds in your garden by planting shrubs, trees, vines, ornamental grasses and flowers that produce berries, nuts and seeds. They’ll flock to your yard, especially when other foods, including insects, become harder to find in the fall and winter.
Try commercial bird seed mixes and different kinds of feeders to put the mixes in. Stock fruits and seeds on a platform feeder, which is a flat tray with raised edges that keep the food from spilling out. Thistle holders are made for tiny thistle seeds, and allow little birds like goldfinches to easily pluck a snack. Tube feeders come with multiple perches, so several birds can visit at once.
Suet holders are cage-like feeders that hold cakes of suet, a specially-made, high-energy food. Look for suet cakes made with peanut butter, berries, raisins or nuts at your local The Home Depot store. You can also learn how to make your own suet bird feeder in this guide.
In winter, birds need food sources and plenty of clean, fresh water to drink. Try a birdbath. They range from elegant basins on pedestals to simple pans. Just keep the bird safe by placing your bird bath far from cats.
An ideal spot would be near trees or shrubs, so the birds have cover for a speedy escape.
Change the water in the bird bath often, especially in hot weather, so harmful bacteria and algae won’t grow. Use a brush and diluted bleach every couple of weeks, and rinse thoroughly.
When temperatures drop to freezing, use a special bird bath heating element to keep the birds coming.
Birds need protection from the weather as well as safe places to build nests and raise their young.
For a wide variety of birds, offer different types of housing. Many will use birdhouses, but some prefer natural areas of native plants, trees, shrubs, dense thickets or tall grasses. Others make their homes in the cavities of living or dead trees.