Is Your Neighborhood Bird Friendly

October 25th, 2022 by georgann

Is your neighborhood bird-friendly?

The basic requirements of food, nesting places and shelter for birds can be found from large tracts of land to small neighborhood backyards if the proper vegetation is present.  Two features are important in your landscape;  structure and composition.

Structure refers to the layering of vegetation in the habitat.  Birds forage at all layers including canopy, understory, brush and ground level.  The more structural complexity you can offer, the more birds and other wildlife will be attracted to not only feed, but also nest and raise their young.  Select plantings for various heights to fill in gaps in the vertical layers from ground to treetops.  The density of the landscape is also important.  Most birds prefer closed canopies with good understory for protection from raptors.  A good ground cover is beneficial providing moist soil and insects and earthworms eaten by thrashers, thrushes and wrens.

Composition involves the beneficial plant varieties that offer food, shelter and nesting to birds.  Choose plants using a bird’s eye, ensuring that each tree, shrub or wildflower is functional.  Look for hard mast, soft mast, flowers and seeds that are available at all times of the year.  Canopy flowers of tulip poplars, for example, attract pollinating insects and, therefore, warblers, flycatchers and vireos during migration.  The dead seeds of coneflowers provide food for finches, chickadees and titmice during the winter.  Fruit of dogwoods, blackgums, mulberries and viburnums are extremely important to migratory birds in fall.  Even one fruiting tree in your landscape can attract dozens of birds including thrushes, tanagers, vireos, woodpeckers and cedar waxwings.  Tangles of dead grape leaves and fall beech leaves attract dead-leaf foragers such as warblers, wrens and woodpeckers.  And don’t forget poison ivy.  Nearly every fruit-eating bird eats the berries and nearly every berry will be gone by winter.  It is probably the number one best plant to have!!

Plants should also be selected for shelter and nesting.  Deciduous trees and shrubs along with evergreens provide the most diverse habitat for birds.  Conifers are ideal winter retreats for screech-owls while dead pine trunks are eagerly attacked by woodpeckers.

Ironically, one of the best situations that I hear from birdwatchers is that their birds are not coming to their feeders.  Nearly always it is because the birds have plenty of natural food in the landscape and simply don’t need the bird seeds kindly proffered.

Encourage your neighbors to create or enhance their yards to make them more bird-friendly.  Remember, even the smallest piece of land can help offset the urban sprawl of concrete.

Birding Adventures, Inc.

Georgann Schmalz


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