Creating Your Own
Bird Gardens

My Bird Gardens are a special place.

Not only for birds, but for us as well.

Just about anytime of the day and anytime of the year I can walk out into my yard and enjoy the sights and sounds of birds.

It also lowers the blood pressure as I relax in my surroundings.

Birds and gardening are my true passions, so this comes easy for me and I hope to make gardening for birds more enjoyable for you as well.

Notice how thick things are and the lupines are in a group.

In this little picture of my yard you see canopy, understory, and ground cover.

You see protection, blooms for insects and seed, and a place to raise a family.

Part of my garden is right near the garden shed.

The peach tree on the left is for us.

Birds need four basics

. Food

. Water

. Protection

. A place to raise a family.

It doesn't matter if you live in the city, a large estate, or have several acres in the country.

You too can have bird gardens.

Just think, you are helping nature and yourself

There's no magic in creating a wildlife-friendly habitat. Some good common sense and awareness of the natural world that surrounds you is great place to start.

Keep in mind that a small percentage of wildlife lives deep in the forest or open spaces, such as lawns. The vast majority live in or near woods edge, thickets and tall grasses. Where habitats come together to create what is called a soft edge.

Go to a local park or nature preserve and observe the surroundings. Notice how there is a gradual change from trees, to shrubs, to a thicket or maybe tall grasses.

It is in this soft edge where a majority of birds and other wildlife live. This is what you can create in your yard.

Your own bird gardens need to offer food, water, protection and a place to raise a family. Offering food and water is good. Protection will keep them coming back for more because they feel safe.

A place to raise a family..................................

Now we're talking bird gardens.

Various species live at various levels and different habitats. Your job is to find out what is in your region, what you can attract, what plantings you need to attract your birds.

Some examples would be:

Male Eastern Bluebird

Tanagers like forests and tree tops. Rarely will you see them at your feeders or birdbaths.

Juncos, towhees and thrushes like to scratch for food under shrubs and forest floors.

Kingbirds, bluebirds, swallows do well in open spaces.

Titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers climb up and down trees looking for food, yet readily come for your handouts.

Robins will hang out just about anywhere.

Chickadees, cardinals and many other "yard" birds prefer to hang out in woods edge, or that soft edge.

However, they will visit feeders too.

Find a vantage point where you can observe your property.

What makes it appealing to birds now and what can you do to make it more appealing?

I'm not calling you a bird brain, but try to think like a bird.

Now, get your note pad and pencil out.

Inventory what you may already have in your yard.

Sketch out your property and where the trees and shrubs are or where you may like them in your bird gardens.

Something like the sample to the right.

Sketch plants as mature plants. We have a tendency to plant to close together when things are cute and little.

You can always fill in with annuals until your shrubs and trees grow some.

Adjust your bird gardens as needed.

Draw in flower beds, gardens and other space you can use for your bird gardens.

Now make a list of plants that are native to your region.

Native plants attract more birds.

Native plants will perform better in your habitats, require less maintenance. More than likely less water and fertilizer.

Have several native plants in your bird gardens, but save room for some of your favorites as well.

See, you're already saving time and money.

Your bird gardens will have a more diverse populous if you follow some simple instructions.

Layers ...............................................

Add layers to your bird gardens and habitats.

Because different birds live in and are attracted by different elements, you want to provide as many of these as you can.

Besides trees and shrubs, learn what perennials you can plant.

Don't forget vines and ground covers.

If you are planting in the shade, look for shade loving or shade tolerant plants

Plant in groupings. In the landscape business, plantings are in odd numbers of 1, 3, 5, 7 etc. Groupings can give a more natural look and attract certain birds more rapidly if they see a patch of potential food .

Tree tops, understory, canopy, ground cover. All are required to attract a greater variety of birds and other wildlife like butterflies, toads and so on.

Make sure your bird gardens fit the bill.

Make curves in your yard to give it a more natural look. Stay away from the hard edge if possible.

Give it what I call the "lawn mower test."

Lay out a garden hose to your desired sculpture. Now sprinkle flour over the hose. remove the hose and you have a line to follow with your lawn mower.

Is it easy or difficult to negotiate your mower? If you have a service , what will it be like for them?

Will plants get beat up or yard art knocked over?

Are the birds you want to attract seed eaters?

Do they prefer fruits or insects?

Some birds are specialists while others will eat what is available.

Find out there habits.

Northern Cardinal

Do the birds in your area feed from tree tops, the understory, or the ground?

Will they come to your feeders or do they eat on the fly?

Try to add something that offers food during different times of the year. From nectar, plants that attract certain insects, seeds, fruits and nuts.

If you choose to have a landscape service come in, be sure to tell them what you want or better yet, pick a company that specializes in wildlife habitats

If your yard is smaller, look to trees and shrubs in larger containers. They offer almost instant results for your bird gardens.

You may have a large area you are turning into bird gardens and habitats, you will save time and money if you buy in gallon containers or smaller. You may want to buy bare root plants or if you are like me, grow as many as you can from seed.

Ground cover is a must, not only for food, but shelter from predators and safety for young fledglings

Hide your garden rake and pruning shears.

Less raking and less pruning gives your bird gardens a more natural look. You save time and the birds will thank you as well.

Prune from time to time to give a natural shape and remove dead and diseased plant materials.

Leave some leaf litter and twigs on the ground for your birds. Litter is used for nests and some birds hunt by scrounging through the litter.

Look at all the time you are saving?

Leave dead trees (snags) if they are out of harms way. Several birds use dead trees as home and for hunting.

Add a dead log to your beds. Decaying wood offers food for several birds and little creatures.

Rocks offer a place to sit and warm up

Add a sand bath for your birds.

Can you fit in a water garden or bird creek? If not, a birdbath or three is a must.

Birds need a drink and clean feathers.

Clean feathers are a must for optimum flight. Keep in mind, a wet bird is a slow bird.

Protection is a must!

Place water close to protection so the birds feel safe. 6 to 10 feet is ideal. Be sure not to plant under your birdbath. Cats and snakes hide out in such areas.

Bird feeders can be placed through out your bird gardens as well.

Place them where the birds feel safe, but also where you can enjoy them also. It's not much fun feeding the birds if you can't enjoy it.

I like to watch the birds feed.

How about nest boxes?

Several species of birds nest in cavities and houses we offer them.

Large birds like wood ducks and owls will use man made housing.

Bluebirds, and swallows welcome nest boxes and artificial cavities in the open spaces.

Make sure you provide homes with proper dimensions and openings. English sparrows and European starlings will take over nest boxes so you need to be on the look out and destroy nests and birds if you can.

Let's see now.............................

You've offered food, water, protection and a place to raise a family.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak


What's missing?

You are!

Add some yard art, a bench or a special place for you to sit and enjoy your bird gardens.

If I'm in the neighborhood, I hope you invite me in. I would enjoy your company and of course your backyard habitat.

Native Trees for Your Habitats

Add Native Shrubs

Native Vines for Your Wildlife

Native Flowers

Native Grasses are Important for Bird Gardens

Create a Beneficial Insectary

Offer Fresh Water

Choosing the Right Feeders

Bird Houses and Nest Boxes for Your Birds

Attract Hummingbirds to Your Gardens

Attract Butterflies Too

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