How to Make Your Garden Bird-Friendly

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Let’s say you have a nice, little plot of land that surrounds your house and you’re the type who loves birds but aren’t sure if the plants and other things in your garden actually attract birds or could be harmful to them.

Perhaps you’ve always loved the chirps and warbles of our winged friends and are thinking of giving them some sort of temporary shelter or place to scrounge for food and water, build their nests, and hatch their young.

If you own a garden and want to turn it into a bird-friendly space, then this is for you. Consider this a little guide to help you create a garden that can become a safe haven for birds.

One of the best ways to enhance your garden so that it attracts birds is by naturescaping your plot of land with trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, and other plants that will help the birds, whether in hunting for food, building their nests, or raise their young.

Naturescaping is the practice of using simple techniques that mimic nature. If you want to make your garden a safe haven for winged creatures and other animals, you need to make sure that your garden will be able to thrive without using synthetic chemicals and other things that might be harmful to them.

Here are some easy ways to go about it that are both easy, money-saving, and can make your little plot of land much more beautiful and teeming of life throughout the year.

1. Research what kinds of plants are best for your area

One of the core practices of naturescaping is all about using plants that are locally grown in surrounding places, or plants that are native to your area as they are adapted to the soil and climate near you and will need less attention and care, as well as minimal watering and fertilizing. They are also more naturally resistant to pests and other diseases, and they can be a source of food and even shelter for the birds

One of the ways to do this is to visit your local wildlife park and see what kinds of trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, and other flora and fauna they have there. Check out plant nurseries for any available plants they might have that would suit your garden.

Read up about the soil you will need, the kind of climate these plants will thrive in, how big they will grow.. Don’t limit yourself to just a handful of different plants.  A wide diversity of plants has the tendency to attract a wide diversity of birds.

2. Avoid invasive, non-native plants

Research is really important when it comes to building your garden, especially if you want your garden to be bird-friendly. While there are so many plants out there–differing in terms of size, leaf shape, height, variety, and the food they produce, and how they look–there are times when a plant might look good, but they can actually be harmful to your soil and harmful to your garden as a whole.

If you plant a shrub or flower or any type of flora or fauna that is foreign to the ecosystem, it can end up harming your garden instead of helping it thrive.

Invasive plants often end up doing the following:

  • Competing directly with native plant species for moisture, sunlight, nutrients, and space
  • Contributing to the decrease of overall plant diversity
  • Degrading wildlife habitat and water quality
  • Assisting in soil erosion
  • Decreasing recreation opportunities

Before you plant anything you see, no matter how picturesque it might be, check first to see if it will harm or help your garden.

3. Select plants that can provide nutritional food in different seasons

Different birds eat different sorts of food depending on the different seasons. If you plant bushes and shrubs that only give food during the warmer weather, the birds won’t have anything to eat during the long winter days. You want your garden to be a source of both shelter and food for your birds.

It’s good, therefore, to have plants and trees that bear different kinds of fruits, berries, and the like for the birds to eat during the different seasons as this will help sustain the various kinds of birds that visit your garden throughout the year.

Hanging bird feeder
A wild bird feeder gives the birds the nutrition they need during the cold months.

As some flowers also transform into a food source for birds (especially during the winter), make sure that you plant a variety, checking out which flowers are best for the birds in the area. If you have hummingbirds where you live and you want to attract them to your garden, make sure to plant flowers that provide life-giving nectar, as these are just the sort of things they eat.

Supply with a bird feeder: You can also choose to get a bird feeder and put it in your garden. Not only does it feed the birds, but it also adds to the aesthetic of your garden’s overall look.

Check out the different types of wild bird feeders here.

4. Protect roots and soil

Birds will often perch on your trees or even go as far as to make their homes in them. Trees can also be a means to provide shade and cool in our yards and also serve as a shelter from predators and other unwanted animals.

As your trees need soil in order to grow, you need to do what you can to protect the roots and trap the moisture in your soil. While most tree roots exist within the tree canopy “drip line” (which is anything underneath the branches of a tree), there are some trees that have roots that extend to up to three times the distance. It’s safer, then, to leave a large buffer zone around the area where you will plant your trees in order to allow water and air to infiltrate the ground.

Care for the soil and trees in your garden will, in turn, make it easier for the birds to make their nests in the trees and to find food as well.

5. Use a dead tree as a snag for the birds

If you have a tree that’s quite unstable, instead of cutting it down and using it for firewood or disposing of it completely, consider using it as a snag for birds. Birds often perch on trees, find food in the bugs and worms on the trunk and leaves, and use it as a place for them to roost or build their nests. Other birds also perch on dead trunks and trees to sing, as a way of staking their territory, or, as in the case of the woodpecker, use the trees for drumming.

The danger of leaving dead branches on a tree and waiting for it to fall is that some birds might build their nests on those branches. Don’t wait for a tree to fall, but remove rotten branches and lay them on the ground for the birds to use.

Pro Tip: As you leave the barks and trunks of dead trees for the birds, consider leaving some leaves behind for them as well, especially those dried ones that have fallen off the tree. Rather than raking them into a pile and discarding them eventually, leave near hedges and under trees that give a dense shade. These leaves will then decompose and attract a good supply of earthworms, insects, and other creatures that the birds can feed on.

6. Put up bird houses in your garden

Is there an area in your garden that you can allot to build a shelter where birds can live undisturbed? If you have the space and the time and budget, it would be good to create some mini wildlife refuges where birds can nest.

Wooden bird nest
A birdhouse or nest box allow your birds and their eggs to stay protected from predators, and keep the birds in your garden during breeding season.

While most birds will build their nests in tree cavities, more often than not, these tree cavities lack suitable nesting places. The reason for this is that tree cavities develop when a branch breaks off but the hole does not close up, which causes the inner wood to rot, thus endangering the nests and baby birds.

If you want to provide an area for the birds that visit your garden to build their homes, the best thing to do would be to install nest boxes where the birds can raise their young. That way, it also protects their nests from dogs, cats, and even people. Providing nest boxes is one way of increasing the variety of birds that come to your property as these will be looking for a place to raise their young.

Nest boxes can be made of wood, but as much as possible, avoid using boxes that contain wood preservatives and paint on the interior, as these could affect the eggs or the young birds.

Check out birdhouses that can be used for feeding or where the birds might build their nests. Make sure that the nest boxes you get vary in shape and size so they can accommodate the different birds that you hope to attract.

7. Provide protection from the wind

If you live in a place where storms come during some parts of the year, it would be good to plant some form of cover or shelter (such as hedges) for birds or provide a solid fence on one side. That way, should raging winds or a rainstorm ever hit your area, your birds will have some place to go where they can seek protection while waiting for the storm to pass.

Check out the different fences and hedges that you can get for your garden.

8. Diversify in terms of structure and heights

White wooden trellis for plants
A trellis provides shelter for your birds during rough weather, and some birds make their nests there as well.

Earlier, we mentioned getting fences or hedges to protect birds in case of raging winds or a thunderstorm. When creating a garden that is bird-friendly, it is important to install trees, shrubs, plants, and other outdoor items in varying heights. Taller trees help provide shelter just as well and create some sort of a ceiling to protect anything that falls under its canopy.  Just as a fence or a hedge can protect birds from fierce storms, trellises with vines, arbors, and the like can also provide shelter or event nesting places for the birds to stay with little or no disturbance.

Check garden trellises and arbors that you might want to consider getting.

9. Try not to use pesticides

Pesticides can be quite harmful to birds and can kill or contaminate the insects, worms, and other creatures that the birds feed on. Sometimes, if pesticides fall on the ground, birds can pick them up, thinking that they are pebbles or gravel. Pesticides can also mix with and contaminate their food. As much as possible, avoid using all sorts of pesticides, including chemical insecticides and herbicides. Look for alternate, better options that are organic but still serve as natural fertilizers for your lawn and garden. One such option is corn gluten.

10. Make sure there’s a source of water

If you have the space and resources to add a pond, you will soon notice your garden attracting another variety of birds–those that love water, such as ducks. Even if there aren’t any water-loving birds near your area, birds need an open water source for drinking and bathing, especially in the heat of the summer or in the winter when most natural bodies of water might be frozen or become unavailable due to the ice and snow. Birds that are migrating often also need to refuel and rehydrate, thus making stops where water is available along the way.

When choosing a bird bath, make sure you get one that is wide but has a shallow slope, as most birds have short legs and avoid deep water. Get one that is elevated off the ground, perhaps one that is mounted on a pedestal, as these are easier to clean and will be out of reach of predatory animals. As they have no qualms about drinking and bathing from the same basin, make sure to clean and replenish the water every few days, especially during the summer.

Metal bird bath for the garden
A bird bath gives your birds a place to cool down during the summer, and during the winter when everything freeze your birds

During the winter, add warm water to the bath several times a day. You might also want to consider installing an electric heating device to the bird bath to provide a reliable water source. Birdbaths made of cement and granite are best for winter use as, unlike ceramic, they will not crack when the water freezes.

Click here for bird baths that you can get to add to your garden.

Opening your garden to birds and providing them with food and shelter is a great way to do your part in helping the environment thrive. Not only do you end up with a garden that is quite picturesque and something that your guests would love to see, but a bird-friendly garden opens up to a wholly different world and will teach you to love flora and fauna as well as these winged friends in a totally different way.