How to Create a Backyard Bird Habitat

Birds are not so different from us; they look for the same things in life: a steady food supply, water, and safety from predators. While our feathered friends can find essentials in many backyards because nice people put up feeders and baths, birds often do not stay.

What are the best ways to create an actual bird habitat, and not just an avian drive-through? Know what surroundings birds prefer and create them. Don't worry -- you won't have to generate an overgrown jungle that will make your neighbors upset. A backyard bird habitat can look nice as well.

Food

Birds will either prefer insects, seeds, berries, or nectar. Cosmos flowers and sunflowers are easy to grow, pretty to look at, and attract a variety of seed-eating birds. Blue jays, finches, cardinals, sparrows, goldfinches, and mourning doves like these flowers. Coneflowers and lilies are popular flowers that will attract orioles and other nectar-lovers.

When using bird feeders, fill them with black-oil sunflower seed. Eggshells will also provide much-needed calcium to birds. Clean the shells, dry in a warm oven, crush, and mix them with the seeds. You can also sprinkle them directly on the ground, especially around the birdbaths.

Birds such as robins, mockingbirds, and wrens eat insects. No need to plan for them -- insects will show up as soon as you start creating a natural habitat.

Water

Birdbaths should not be deeper than 3 inches and should have gradual slopes. Birds like rough surfaces, so add rocks or nonskid stickers if the bottom is too smooth. You will have to change the water every other day and clean it once in a while by scouring it with a brush. Place the bath near bushes or trees, but leave a minimum of 2 feet of space for birds to land.

Landscaping the bird habitat

Simply providing food and water alone will not make a home. Bushes, trees, and shrubs provide a safe landing zone for birds while they peruse the menu. Even better, the greenery can also function as a smorgasbord for berry-eating birds. Viburnums, Washington hawthorn, elderberries, crab apples, hollies, Rosa rugosa, cherry, burning bush, and dogwoods all make for good curb appeal, and birds will find them irresistible.

To entice feathered friends to nest and raise babies in the yard, plant suitable shrubs that will appeal more than store-bought birdhouses. Easy-to-plant shrubs that won't offend the neighbors include rhododendron, yellow twig dogwood, wintergreen, Russian olive, and forsythia. If the yard already has trees, this works too, especially if these consist of English oak, weeping willow, Eastern red cedar, quaking aspen, sugar maple, and Japanese elm.

Choose shrubs and trees of varying heights to create tiers, especially in smaller spaces. These will also protect birds from wind and provide shade when it's hot. Birds also like to have a supply of nesting material nearby, so throw in a grouping or two of ornamental grass.

Zones

Your growing zone will determine what plants you can provide, and different birds populate different areas of the country, so select the appropriate options from the bird-friendly plants and flowers. Native species are best because the neighborhood birds know them.

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