Many birds visit or nest in our yards when the materials for their basic needs of shelter, food and water are readily available. In recognition of National Bird Day on January 5th, here are some tips and ways you can help our wild friends live their best life:
Grow Native Plants
Food and shelter are two basic needs that many native plants can fulfill for birds. Oregon Grape (Mahonia spp), Western Crabapple (Pyrus fusca), Western Spiraea (Spiraea douglasii), Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), and Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) are some examples of Willamette Valley natives that provide both food and shelter for our local bird populations. Native plants are the best option for providing sustenance to native wildlife.
Providing a variety of food options in your yard will make it more habitable by birds. Berries, seeds, nuts, grains, insects and nectar can all be a part of a bird’s diet throughout the year. Even fallen leaves serve purpose to birds, so allow leaves, spent flowers and hollow stems to stick around in the garden for the birds and insects to re-purpose or feed on.
Installing feeders is one way to add a variety of seeds, grains & fruits to birds without sacrificing too much of your own crop. We all know birds like to consume our fruits and berries just as much as we do, so do put up bird netting, scare tape or motion sensing sprinklers to protect those valuable plants, and avoid placing feeders right next to your home orchard or garden.
Plants that provide fruit:
Arbutus unedo ‘Strawberry Tree’
Malus spp. ‘Crabapple’
Vaccinium: Lingonberry, Blueberry & Huckleberry
Plants that provide nuts:
Quercus ‘Oak tree’
Castanea ‘Chestnut tree’
Plants to provide seeds:
Pennisetum ‘Fountain Grass’, ‘Millet’
Conifers such as Pine, Spruce, or Fir
Incorporate these nectar producing plants into the landscape, for hummingbirds and for insects that will provide food for other birds:
Azalea – Rhododendron
Ceanothus ‘California Lilac’
Heathers, Erica, Daboecia & Calluna
Red Flowering Currant
Trees & Vines:
Heptacodium ‘Seven Sons tree’
Styrax ‘Japanese Snowbell’
Perennials & Annuals:
Kniphofia ‘Red Hot Poker’
Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells’
Cuphea ‘Bat face’ & ‘Mouse-ears’
Vantage points and easy navigation give the sense of security to birds. Consider creating an environment where birds can go from high to low places without being seen. A multi-level environment gives birds freedom to maneuver through brush and feel protected from bigger predators.
Establish tall trees (25′ or higher) around the perimeter of your yard or in a corner, then plant a dense eye-level layer of shrubs (6-12′ tall). Complete the multi-level setting by planting low growing shrubs and perennials (1-4’ tall) under the mid-layer shrubs. Plants that provide good shelter include large grasses, dense shrubs like Spiraea or Abelia, evergreen plants like Rhododendrons and Arborvitae, or thorny plants like Barberry. All trees are good shelter species, providing height and some protection from weather; conifers like pine and spruce trees are particularly good bird habitat.
Bird baths, ponds and fountains are all wonderful options for birds to drink out of and bathe in – many birds prefer moving water, so consider adding a mister or spray device to a birdbath, if practical. Place birdbaths among low-level plants instead of exposed areas, such as the middle of the lawn. Build your pond with some shallow shelves, or place logs or rocks to allow for a safe landing spot as birds can sometimes misjudge the depth of water. A short fringe of wire mesh just below the pond surface around some or all of the pond edge, or groundcovers trailing into the pond from the surrounding plantings, could work too.