A Bird Friendly Garden:
Nurturing nature friends
ardens are living places. They are filled with life- and live themselves -in the growing, changing way that God has ordained. Gardens, like all parts of life, have layers of discovery, and the birdlife within the garden is one of color and song, of flight and feeding, even revelation for those with eyes to see. Making a bird friendly garden is an integral part of this living, breathing space.
Whether you issue the invitation or not, birds will visit your garden. The species will depend on where you live and what habitats you have nearby.
Changing your plantings will induce some birds to feel more at home, and they may honor you with their permanent presence! I love to see new birds, and some I look forward to each year: song sparrows, hummingbirds, cardinals, mockingbirds, mourning doves, scissor-tail barn swallows, robins, brown thrashers….the list is a long one.
Over the years, due to many causes for change, some bird sightings are rare. If gardeners create refuge and promote a healthy environment, we could protect the future of some of these creatures.
Providing nesting places and materials are one way to invite birds into the garden.
Evergreens are a preferred nesting and resting site; junipers, spruces, and pines are all possibilities.
Low growing cotoneaster, dense twiggy shrubs, and shrubs with berries are all useful for nesting, perching, and food.
Birds in My Own Garden, in Ohio
Specific species of birds prefer certain environments, and what offerings are in your garden will determine the types of birds to find food and nesting opportunities there.
Some types which prefer a wooded canopy are: blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers; those of the fields are meadowlarks, red-wing blackbirds, killdeer, and bluebirds. Mourning Doves, mockingbirds, robins, sparrows and finches, especially love my garden.
Hummingbirds like the garden environment as well, and they loved my mothers garden. I think it was the stand of Monardas she had. Birds which I had seen here in a field environment (in former years) included the cedar waxwing and the oriole, downy woodpeckers and the titmouse.
Of course, hawks are a regular in the country, but thankfully don’t visit the garden very often (neither do the turkey vultures, who love roadkill around here). Some birds I love from AFAR.
Planting is for the Birds
Birds love Hawthorn trees, and they quickly strip the Chionanthus tree (Fringe tree) of its olive-like fruits in my garden. Juneberry trees, the Amelanchier, are favorites of both birds and humans: we like the flowers and the beautiful autumn foliage, they like the blue berries that are produced, no surprise, in June.
American cranberry bush, Viburnum trilobum, is an all season large bush attracting vireos and warblers. The vining Virginia Creeper turns a scarlet in the fall and has berries that birds love; it has a reputation for being a favorite of bluebirds and downy woodpeckers. Seed producing annuals, like Cosmos, attract goldfinches and other seed-eating birds.
About Bird Baths
If you wish you knew more about avian habits and which baths are best for them, this article may answer your questions. Learn the difference between healthy and not so healthy baths for wild birds.
For drinking and bathing, a birdbath is an ornamental addition to the garden. For birds wellbeing keep these points in mind:
- shallow water: 1-2 inches deep, no deeper than 3 inches
- rough surface for foothold
- situated in the open -don’t give the cats a hiding place. 2 feet of open space is good.
- but put some perching places nearby, a small tree, perhaps.
- keep the water clean.
Water that splashes or moves is most attractive to birds, so a fountain or spray in a garden pond will draw their attention.
Garden Ideas for the Bird Friendly Space:
- When in the city, I had planted a hawthorn tree beside the front porch within site of a window. It proved to be a magnet for migrating warblers, followed by white flowers in spring, and berries for the winter.
- A stand of bright red Monardas beneath would attract the hummingbird in summer, and adding ‘Starfire’ phlox fronted by Alyssum or even woodland strawberries would make a beautiful picture through the early summer.
- A meadow opening with different types of Cosmos, Bachelor buttons, daisies, coneflowers, and asters would prove to be a highlight all summer with a strong attraction for gold finches.
- A stand of conifers (dwarf types are ideal for the city), with some berried bushes nearby (Viburnum mariesii? a Rosa rugosa?), a footed birdbath planted underneath with Heucheras (coralbells) would make a most lovely peaceful retreat.
- Only have a porch? Why not plant containers full of red geraniums and hanging baskets with fuchsias and petunias? Hummingbirds will find you .
- For those with a love of vegetable gardens, a row of sunflowers, along with trimmings of zinnias and marigolds is cheerful and will feed the birds later in the season. I love to see a finch hanging onto the drooping head of a sunflower heavy with seed.
I meant to do my work today
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand..
So what could I do but laugh and go?
–Richard le Gallienne-
Some must-see sites for Birds:
One of my favorite birds, but so rare here! Some tips on making your garden a welcoming place for them:
*nesting box with inside dimensions of 4 – 5 inches ; adequate depth (floor to entrance hole) of 7 – 8 inches
*4 to 10 feet off the ground in a large open space, such as a field or meadow space; grassy open part of the yard
*Directions for making a Peterson Bluebird House
*bluebirds mainly eat ground insects, and some berries- they like mealworms
*This and more information from Ed Neid,Jr
* Plans for Bluebird house (PDF)
birds love many of the same plants as butterflies:
Learn More about Birds