Watching backyard birds is relaxing, entertaining, and educational. Seeing a bright red cardinal in the middle of winter is uplifting. A visit from a ruby-throated hummingbird outside the breakfast nook can be a great way to start the day. Whether you are knowledgeable about the birds that visit your yard or just want to sit back, relax, and observe, it’s well worth the time and effort to encourage them to your garden. The foundation of your bird garden is plants that offer food, shelter, and nesting. This common garden practice is often called, “birdscaping”.
To get the most pleasure out of your birdscape, be selective about which plants you choose to develop a habitat that’s conducive to attracting and viewing birdlife. Increasing the bird population in your yard can be as easy as planting a single tree. Add a shrub or two, some perennials for color, and suddenly you have an inviting bird haven for the summer. A bench placed nearby, and some patience will reward your efforts.
Plants are the foundation of the food web. Generally, native plants attract the most varieties of birds. Native birds prefer native insects, and native insects have evolved alongside native plants. Native plants benefit native insects, and native insects benefit native birds.
Certain plants will give birds a place to hide during bad weather.
Having these plants in your yard increase your likelihood of having nests full of baby birds outside your window. You can’t have birds without the babies. And you can’t have babies without the nests.
If you don’t live near a natural water source, you need to have a bird bath. Keep the basin clean by scrubbing to remove any build up and fill it with fresh water often. Bird baths come in many different colors and materials, easily providing a functional and beautiful accent in your garden.
Feeding birds is crucial for attracting them. While seed, nut, and suet feeders provide food for birds, appealing to insect and fruit eating birds is the key to a successful bird garden.
NUT/SEED PLANTS: Nuts and seeds of plants are a major component of some bird’s diets, especially in winter. Blue jays are fun to watch as they crack acorns, while pine siskins prefer the seeds of White Spruce and pines.
Pictured above: American Filbert (Corylus americana)
FRUIT AND FLOWERS: Not only do flowers house tasty insects, but those flowers become tasty fruit in mid to late summer. Robins, catbirds, and cedar waxwings relish small fruits such as crabapples, elderberries, dogwoods, and serviceberries.
Pictured above: American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Breeding Season: Mid-May through Mid-July Migration Period (flight to Central & South America): Mid-July through Mid-September Winter Survival Fitness (winter homes): Mid-September through Mid-March Migration Period/Survival Fitness (flight to North America): Mid-March though Mid-June
The design of a birdscape is very important. Include all three levels when creating your bird garden.
Apple Serviceberry: A Multi-season, Multi-food Producer
Oak Species: A Powerhouse Plant for Birds
These are only a few of the MANY different plants that satisfy multiple elements of a successful bird garden. There are so many to choose from. So, where to start? Natives are a great start. They inherently offer visually attractive features and benefits to our local food web.
We invite you to check out the Wisconsin Native Plant Guide.