How can I make my yard a natural haven for birds?

Aside from providing all sorts of critical benefits in the ecosystem, birds are fun to watch. If you want to attract birds to your yard, remember that they are looking for three basic things: cover, food and water.

Providing cover

Providing food and cover year-round requires a variety of trees, shrubs and other plants. Birds like places where they feel secure — which, for a bird, is all about finding good vantage points to survey their surroundings. They need to be able to navigate from high to low places without being noticed. So creation of a tiered environment with multiple levels will be most inviting. You can increase the bird-welcoming vibe by adding more layers of vegetation between the ground and the treetops. If you have plenty of trees but no groundcover, add some. If you have lots of low plants and medium shrubs but no trees, plant a few.

Providing food

Birds eat a varied diet of berries, seeds, insects, nuts, grains and nectars — a menu that changes with the seasons. Some birds need sugary berries during nesting time and fatty nuts to tide them over in the winter. If you can provide a variety of year-round foods, you’ll be more successful bringing birds to your yard.

  • Examples of fruits: barberry, blueberry, chokecherry, cotoneaster, dogwood, firethorn, huckleberry, lingonberry, strawberry tree
  • Examples of seeds: amaranth, fountain grass, millet, sunflower
  • Examples of nuts: chestnut, hazelnut, oak
  • Examples of nectar: azalea, camelia, crepe myrtle, daphne, daylily, flowering currant, fuchsia, honeysuckle, hosta, jasmine, lilac, penstemon, petunia, rhododendron, salvia, silverbell, snowbell, trumpet vine

In the fall, instead of raking all the leaves, considering leaving them on the ground, along with spent flowers and hollow stems. These all provide places where insects important to feeding birds can set up shop, providing a great source of food for your avian friends. Feeders can also help birds wintering in your area have enough to eat to stay healthy during the coldest months of the year. Just make sure you clean the feeders every time you refill them.

Providing water

Bird baths and ornamental fountains also provide birds access to water. Instead of setting them in open spaces, however, tuck them in among low-level cover plants so the birds are more secure when drinking or bathing. And be sure and clean them regularly. It might sound surprising, but birds can sometimes misjudge water depth. So consider including a rock or piece of driftwood sticking out of your water feature to give the birds a safe spot to land. That will help them better judge the water so they can safely drink.

Get two-for-one benefits by adding native plants

Incorporating native plants into your landscaping covers two of a bird’s most basic needs — food and shelter.

Here’s are a few examples of native plants that attract birds in our area:

  • Cascara
  • Crabapple
  • Oregon Grape
  • Salmonberry
  • Snowberry

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