Build A Bird-Friendly Backyard With Native Plants

If you’d like to see more birds fluttering nearby your home or want to help the local ecosystem stay in or return to a vibrant, natural state, consider planting a bird-friendly yard or container garden. Birds need familiar native plants for food—they are a source of insects, nuts, and fruits—as well as shelter and nesting materials. And boosting the plant density in your outdoor spaces also absorbs carbon dioxide and counteracts climate change, making it an all-around win for the Earth.

There are more than 900 species of birds in North America and about 10,000 worldwide. Along with the loss of habitat caused by human development, birds are challenged by global warming and its effects, such as the loss or shifting of their summer and winter ranges into new, unfamiliar territories. The National Audubon Society’s Climate Report found that, of 588 studied, more than 300 of the birds in North America are severely threatened by global warming’s effects. Establishing or boosting robust regional habitats helps more of these birds live a healthy and less strenuous life. Research has found bird activity increases in areas where native plantings take place.

Here are a few tips to make your yard more appealing to birds:


Minimize Pesticide Use & Mowed Grass

Converting some of your lawn back into a native habitat can improve local birds’ quality of life. Unmanicured yard sections serve as new hubs and connections within the web of natural areas near you. Native plants typically need less watering—another environmental boon. And yards that contain less manicured grass and grow regionally natural plants require less pesticide and fertilizer use (or none at all), keeping these chemicals out of the local ground and water. As well as being harmful to pollinators, other bugs, and the birds and other animals that eat them, exposure to pesticides has been shown to have many serious effects on human health. And, a great deal more pesticides are used in U.S. lawn care than in the food system each year. If you’re ready to transform an area of your lawn into a natural state or create a bird-inviting planter garden, be sure to contact a local nursery, horticultural specialist, or arborist, or consult the Audubon guide described below to determine how best to proceed in your area.


Learn About & Use Native Plants

It’s important to be well-informed about your growing zone as you plan and build a bird-oasis. Concerns like climate and soil drainage can impact the success of your plantings. Audubon serves as a great resource on filling your yard with native plants. It runs a “Plants for Birds” program that shows users bird-friendly plants, trees, shrubs and grasses native to their ZIP code, and helps them locate local suppliers.


Plant With Layers, Diversity & Density In Mind

Different birds have different needs at different times of year. By planting flora of different varieties and heights, you are more likely to create and support a flourishing bird community. For example, catbirds nest in shrubs, while warblers forage on the forest floor. Dense bushes provide shelter and protection from predators. Some plants provide birds with fruits and seeds to fuel their migrations.


Enjoy Your Neighborhood & Build Community

Take time to enjoy the natural areas near you, whether it’s your own front yard, a community garden, or a public park. Connect with other locals who are interested in birding, protecting local wildlife, nature restoration, and/or pesticide reduction to explore the possibility of collaborative efforts and projects.


Remember: You’re Making A Difference

Feeders, nest boxes, and access to drinking and bathing water are also important for birds. Don’t underestimate the importance of your work to give our flighted friends better, more natural homes. Entomologist and University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy, who studied these kinds of efforts, explains the importance of home garden habitats in his book, Bringing Nature Home: “For the first time in its history, gardening has taken on a role that transcends the needs of the gardener…It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference. In this case, the difference will be to the future of biodiversity, to the native plants and animals of North America and the ecosystems that sustain them.”