Create Bird-friendly Habitats

Attract native bird species to your farm or backyard by strategically planting the landscape.

by Dani Yokhna
When planting trees and shrubs on your farm, think of plant varieties that could serve as food, shelter or nesting area for wild birds. Photo courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock (
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Birds can play an important role in your farm or backyard environment, and the selection of food-producing trees and shrubs you provide can ensure the presence of birds year-round. To attract and maintain a bird population, a habitat should provide food, cover, nesting areas and water. Here are some things to think about as you start this year’s spring planting.

To maximize the natural food source, select plants that will provide an available food source year-round in your area. The use of native trees and shrubs will help ensure that appropriate fruits and berries are available for the local bird population. If the landscape does not supply food during certain periods, supplement with commercial birdseed mixes. Some birds eat a variety of seeds while others prefer one or two types. The seeds that appeal to the majority of birds include sunflower, proso millet and peanut kernels.

Birds require cover or shelter from inclement weather (sun, heat, wind and rain) and natural predators if they are to become long-term residents. Ornamental trees and shrubs can supply necessary cover or shelter, while multi-stem plants that form dense canopies provide an ideal environment for nesting.

Because birds require shelter year-round, the landscape should include a mix of deciduous and evergreen plants. Evergreen plants include broadleaf evergreens, such as holly, and conifers, such as red cedar. At least 25 percent of trees and shrubs planted to attract birds should be evergreen.

A source of fresh water is also necessary to maintain a bird population. The water source should be shallow (no more than 2 to 3 inches deep) and replaced on a regular basis. Running water, such as a shallow fountain, is the ideal water source. The water source should be elevated or in the middle of an open area to minimize predation by cats and other animals.

For information about specific plant varieties to use in your bird-friendly landscape, contact your local cooperative extension agent.

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