Birdscaping in the Home Garden

– By Steve Pettis
Turning one’s yard into a suitable habitat for birds requires designing landscapes that provide birds with their five essential needs: food, shelter, water, cover, and nesting sites. Birdscaping is a term used to describe the act of creating suitable habitat for avian species through landscaping. By planning landscape designs with birds in mind, gardeners can provide birds with the things they need to survive and birds can provide  gardeners with hours of enjoyment.

Planning a landscape that is suitable for birds is easy. Start by sketching the existing landscape. Make note of all structures, plantings, and topographical features. Make notes on your drawing of the plants to leave, to remove, or add keeping in mind that birds like edges such as forest and planting borders. Choose areas to plant trees and shrubs that birds can utilize. Mix in plantings of annuals and perennials that flower throughout the season. These plants will attract insects that birds may feed on. Try to leave standing dead trees, if possible, to provide habitat for birds such as woodpeckers.

After making plant choices that provide food, shelter, and cover for birds, artificial features should be considered. Water sources such as birdbaths, fountains, and ponds may be added to landscapes to attract birds. The features should be in the open away from any place cats and other predators can hide. Rocks and water plants add a to water feature’s attractiveness to birds as well as keeping the water fresh. Man made birdhouses can be installed. These should be placed in sheltered spots near a shrub or tree. Finally, birdfeeders can be added. All bird feeders should be placed in the open near some sort of cover. Baffles and guards should be placed on mounting poles of both birdfeeders and houses to prevent predation.

Attracting birds to one’s yard by birdscaping can be rewarding. Birds are not only beautiful and fun to watch, but also provide control of adult insects, grubs, and caterpillars. By improving suburban and urban landscapes, people can help replace bird habitat that has been reduced or destroyed by development.

Trees and Shrubs for Birds
Plant type
Birds attracted
Oak Tree Excellent nesting Blue jays, sparrows, acorn woodpeckers
Pine Tree Excellent nesting Robins, purple finches, mourning doves, warblers, sparrows
Holly Large shrub Shelter Towhees, thrashers, mockingbirds
Elderberry Large shrub Summer fruit Warblers, grosbeaks, goldfinches
Dogwood Small tree Nesting, late summer fruit Bell’s vireos, summer tanagers
American Beautyberry Shrub Late summer fruit Many birds
Native roses Shrub Nesting, cover Many birds
Eastern Red Cedar Tree Nesting, winter fruit Sparrows, robins, mockingbirds, many others
Winterberry Dec. Holly Small shrub Late winter fruit Robins, blackbirds, cedar waxwings

Feeders for Birds
Squirrel-proof feeders Spinners, flippers, trapdoors prevent pesky squirrels from robbing feeders
Platform feeders Feeds many birds at once
Tube feeders Plastic tube with staggered holes
Hummingbird feeders Glass feeders filled with sugar water (1 part sugar, 4 parts water; no red dye needed; boil and cool before use)
Suet feeders Wire suspended suet cake. Birds often hang upside down to feed.
Thistle feeders Narrow tube feeders
Peanut feeders Attracts woodpeckers
Window feeders Suction cups attach feeder to window