From sea birds to song birds, we’re blessed with a wide assortment of beautiful birds to enjoy here in New England. And we’re also well aware of how harsh the winters can be. If you’d like to make your yard a more attractive habitat for birds, here are some tips.
Food: Birds often eat within three categories: seeds, insects, and nectar. Pick plants with an abundance of these food sources, staggered throughout all four seasons. Pay special attention to plants that produce food in late fall, winter, and early spring – when food will be most scarce. And be sure to place feeders in a spot that can’t be reached by cats.
Water. Birds need water for not only drinking, but for bathing. A small pipe or hose that drips water into a shallow standing pool is perfect because the regular movement of the water will keep it fresh, mosquito-free, and prevent freezing.
Shelter: Birds like open spaces, like a stretch of lawn, surrounded by trees and shrubs with dense vegetation. This vegetation provides quick shelter from inclement weather or predators.
Nest Sites: Birds will nest in a variety of ways but they will often look for an entrance point shielded from rain and wind, a clear flight path to and from the nest, and a location safe from predators. When you can, leave a decaying tree in place, as many birds choose hollows for home sites, which are harder to come by in nature. You can also provide variously shaped bird houses that cater to the nesting preferences of different birds.
Choose Native Plants: As much as possible, choose plants that are native to your region. These plants are equipped to grow in local conditions and have evolved to support and partner with the native birds. White Pines, for example, are popular. Not only do they provide great shelter, but more than 200 moth and butterfly species eat pine needles. And the birds then eat the moths and butterflies!
Skip pesticides: Whenever you can, skip pesticides. They can often create more problems than they solve. Pesticides may kill the offending insect in your garden, but they will also kill any beneficial insects. Pesticides will also flow into groundwater and close bodies of water, be absorbed by berry- and seed-producing plants, and even be absorbed by earth worms. As birds ingest all of these things, they often will be sickened or killed too. So use pesticides very sparingly, if at all.
Feed Consistently: Once a bird has found a suitable and consistent food source, it will set up its shelter by that food source. If you put bird feeders out, continue to fill them from fall to spring, in good weather and bad, when food is most scarce. Summer is okay too but food will be much more plentiful for them. Feeding them consistently will encourage the bird to pick your yard as its home turf (and grocery store). If you stop putting food out, they will simply find another spot.
Visit Our Birding Displays
We put together a display of native plants that serve bird populations well, especially in winter. And in our Garden Store, we have a great selection of birdhouses that are not only adorable, but effective shelters for a variety of birds, including Bluebirds and Chickadees. We have a Bird House Choosing Guide there if you would like to attract a certain kind of bird. We also have a variety of feeders, seeds (Meaties!), suets, and nectars that can cater to Hummingbirds, Finches, and many other birds. And we also have the popular Squirrel Buster feeder!
Some Bird-Friendly Trees and Shrubs
Here are some bird-friendly trees and shrubs in stock now:
- Fruit Trees
- Perennial Grasses
According to recent research published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, wild bird populations in the continental U.S. and Canada have declined by almost 30% since 1970. Learn more about this disturbing trend.
Sunflower seeds, cracked corn, suet, and safflower seeds seem to attract the most birds. Buy seed in bulk to keep the cost down. And store it in an air-tight, dry container that can’t be burglarized by other animals. A metal trash can with a lid is ideal.
Wash and disinfect your bird feeders monthly, and rake the seed hulls out from under the feeders. This will help prevent the spread of disease among birds.
Placing feeders on the south or east side of your house will provide the most sun and protection.
Mix safflower seeds in with your bird feed. It’s bitter tasting to squirrels and will help to keep them away.