Imagine you were looking for a new home. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to fly from one property to another, have a quick look around at the layout, décor and local amenities, and then have the owner beg you to move into the one you like best? That’s what it’s like being a bird!
We’d all love to attract our feathered friends into our gardens, but they can be quite picky about what they expect from their surroundings. If the spring sunshine is spurring you to look at your garden and think about its design, keeping in mind the needs and desires of the birds you’d like to attract will help inspire your efforts.
A garden will appeal to avian visitors by providing food, water and places to hide and nest. Here we suggest a few simple guidelines that will soon pay off in sightings of many new species.
Develop a diverse array of vegetation by planting not just flowers, but also a range of different trees and bushes. These will provide constant food sources and habitat throughout the year. Early blooming plants will help migrating birds keep up their energy reserves as they move through your area and trees that keep fruiting through winter will provide an important food source. Consider plants such as common hackberry, viburnum and Virginia creeper, whose fruits will keep birds such as cedar waxwings well-fed until summer.
Select plants of differing heights so that bird species can enjoy foraging for food on the ground or picking fruits and seeds from higher spots. Planting a variety of vegetation such as shrubs, trees, ground cover and grasses will give birds more options not only for feeding but for shelter as well.
Use native plant species, as our birds will recognize and enjoy these familiar food sources. They will also keep your garden manageable and looking healthy. Native trees such as eastern white cedar and eastern hemlock provide many hiding places and nesting sites, while dogwood and blackberry provide an abundance of food.
Keep older trees when you can, as they are a good resource for insectivorous birds. Dead trees can also be trimmed and incorporated as a feature into your garden to attract woodpeckers, such as downy woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and pileated woodpeckers, who will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Their excavations will even provide nesting space for smaller birds like chickadees and swallows.
Reduce the amount of bare lawn and dead zones in favour of more natural habitat, such as a flowering meadow that will tempt more birds to visit your yard. Birds such as sparrows, juncos and finches thrive in this type of habitat.
The most appropriate plants for your garden will also depend on its particular characteristics and on the bird species you wish to attract. To help you choose, feel free to consult the documents listed below (French only). Happy gardening!
Fondation de la faune du Québec. Faites la cour aux oiseaux. 2001.
Institut Earth Values. La Faune gagne du terrain TM. Invitez la faune dans votre cour. 2005.