It has long been said that birds are barometers for the health of the environment. When bird migration patterns are off, it could mean rising temperatures or a change in the ecosystem. On a smaller scale, birds are also indicators for the health of your backyard.
Believe it or not, if you actually create a garden and yard that’s attractive in the eyes of birds, it’s a great measure for how green and sustainable your garden actually is. That is, if your garden can successfully interact with birds and nature, then it’s doing exactly what it should be doing.
However, judging your landscape isn’t the only reason you should want birds in your yard. Their colorful plumage, sociable behavior and mellifluous songs add a beauty and life to your property that only nature can provide. Imagine going outside to see a rainbow-colored Painted Bunting or a foraging Downy Woodpecker. You don’t have to be a self-proclaimed bird lover to stop and marvel at their grace. And honestly, a world without birds would look utterly terrifying.
So, if you’re interested in creating a bird-friendly backyard and a garden that attracts birds, here is what you need to know.
Plant flowers birds love
When gardening for birds, you have to first realize that it could take time — even a few years — before some of your gardening will positively affect the birds. That being said, these are great long-term methods for attracting birds, unlike bird feeders which require money and maintenance. The first thing you should do when gardening for birds is plant flowers they will like.
Some flowers that birds love the most include cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, goldenrods and coneflowers. Most of all, birds absolutely love sunflowers. The best food to put in bird feeders is sunflowers seeds, so it’s no surprise that birds are drawn to these plants. But you must be prepared and willing to let goldfinches, chickadees and cardinals peck at them to retrieve the seeds.
This blog has talked about why you should compost, but if you’re gardening for the birds, composting is a must. Composting is a way to positively interact with nature and create fertilizer for your flowers. Another added benefit of composting is insects. Most people hate insects, but they actually do a lot of good for composting and attract hungry birds.
Sunflowers seeds will attract a lot of seed-eating birds, but many bird species like Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Eastern Bluebirds eat insects. Composting is a great way to attract insects for birds while reducing the amount of trash you send to a landfill.
Conifers are key
Although trees aren’t exactly garden plants, they are especially important when attracting birds. By far, the best types of trees to attract birds are conifers. These trees provide shelter in the winter, nesting sites for cardinals in the spring, sap for Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers and delicious seed-filled cones. To birds, conifers are like an all-expenses-paid cruise replete with amenities.
I understand that not many yards or gardens have enough space for a massive conifer, but that’s where dwarf conifers come in. Dwarf conifers are much smaller than the full-sized trees, but they provide much of the same benefits, just at a smaller scale. If you’re interesting in planting other trees too, birds love oaks, maples, dogwoods and more.
Birds love native plants because they’re already familiar with the species. That means if snapdragons are prevalent in your area, birds are more likely to be comfortable around them. You also get the added benefit of having plants that are more resilient and used to your landscape. This means you’ll have to put in less effort while gardening.
As you can see, if you keep up your garden with birds in mind, you’ll create a healthy and natural yard that’s not independent of the environment, but an active participant.
About our guest…Tim Martinez is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors and birding (that’s bird-watching for anyone who doesn’t know). Tim is currently the writer for the official blog of Backyard Chirper, which sells bird feeders, birdhouses and more.