Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Attract birds to your backyard: Part 2: Shelter and breeding habitat

Bewick's WrenBewick's Wren, Hillsboro, Oregon, 4 March 2010 by Greg Gillson.


In Part 1 we discussed that all life needs food, water, and shelter. Specifically, we looked at a bird's need for water and food. In this post we discuss their need for shelter and breeding habitat.

As in real estate, attracting birds is all about 3 things: location, location, location.

Your backyard, even if only an urban deck, is part of your larger neighborhood. The surrounding neighborhood, then, has a direct bearing on the number and types of birds you can expect in your own bakyard.

Thus, if there is an unmanicured woodlot next door, you might expect wrens, such as the Bewick's Wren above, to visit your yard from time to time. They are primarily interested in insects they can find in the brush or low bushes.


Orange-crowned WarblerA migrant Orange-crowned Warbler hides out in evergreen landscaping, Newport, Oregon, 30 April 2010 by Greg Gillson.


Evergreen shrubs provide shelter all through the year. It gives small birds a place to hide when a cat appears. During migration, your evergreen shrubs may host tired and hungry neotropical migrants, such as warblers, vireos, tanagers, buntings, and others.

If you have trees, you will attract even more birds.


Spotted TowheeA Spotted Towhee sings from a fruit tree, Scoggins Valley Park, Gaston, Oregon, 3 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


In whatever neighborhood you live, you can attract the most birds by varying your landscaping. More birds are found in "edge" habitat, than in monoculture. Birds will appreciate an area that combines lawn, trees, shrubs, hedges, and gardens.

But what if you live in a simple residential housing area without large trees or mature landscaping? What can you do to make your yard more attractive to birds if you are renting your property and can't make major landscaping changes?

If your yard is mostly lawn, consider planting a central island of shrubs. How about creating planters or container gardens with small bushes, flowers, or vegetables?

Not everyone can have an old snag in their backyard to attract cavity nesting birds. However, setting up a bird house can accomplish the same purpose.


Northern FlickerA juvenile Northern Flicker peers out of its nest box, Hillsboro, Oregon, 19 July 2010 by Greg Gillson.


Once you have done your best to make your yard attractive to birds with natural food, water, shelter, and breeding habitat, you are ready to set up a bird feeder.

Which foods attract which birds? What options are available as bird feeders, and which are best? We'll discuss these topics in the next two parts of this series.

Part 1
Part 3