National Bird Day - January 5th

More Ways You Can Help Protect Birds Around Your Home

Habitat loss is the single greatest threat to birds, outweighing building collisions, domestic cat predation, hunting and capturing for the pet trade.

You can help offset some of these threats and contribute to wildlife conservation by creating habitats in your backyard and community, and getting the whole family involved. It won't take much effort — the following tips for creating habitats for birds are relatively simple and immediately impactful.

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  • Provide nesting sites. Planting a variety of native trees and shrubs provides optimal protection and nesting sites for birds.
  • Diversity is key. One of the most important features for birds is structural diversity, with shrubs and herbaceous plants that grow under trees and plants at different heights and groupings.
  • Dead trees have a purpose. Birds love dead trees and limbs. As long as dead trees and limbs do not pose a human safety concern, leave them. They provide habitat for birds such as woodpeckers and bluebirds who utilize tree holes for nests. Dead limbs also provide optimal "lookout" posts for birds.
  • Cats vs. birds. Keep cats indoors, especially during the bird breeding season (generally spring and summer) when young birds are most at risk as they are learning to fly.
  • Stop mowing. Or at least set aside some "no-mow" areas of your yard. Many songbirds nest close to the ground in grass and "weeds." Leaving tall grass areas will help birds such as goldfinches, quail and towhees. You also will save on mowing time, expense and pollution.
  • Create a water source. Wild birds need a continuous supply of fresh, clean water all year long. Look for a basin that can be cleaned easily and has a gentle slope so birds can wade into the water. The bowl should be no more than 1 to 3 inches deep. Keep birdbaths at least 15 feet from other feeding areas. Place them near shrubs or trees for quick escape from predators. Having perching space nearby helps birds to sit and preen after bathing. Keep water clear of algae, mud or droppings by replacing it every two to three days.
  • Consider the birds and the bees. Help out bees and provide these pollinators with a variety of flowering plants that that have overlapping flowering periods. Planting clumps of native flowers will attract more pollinators. But avoid using insecticides and herbicides, especially when flowers are in bloom. (If you are successful in attracting a diverse collection of birds to your garden, you will no longer need insecticides and herbicides.) Different birds specialize in eating different insects, while others set their sights on weed seeds. For example, goldfinches devour thistle seeds, and black phoebes are experts at catching flying insects.

Next:  How to Get Involved »