Landscaping to Create A Bird Habitat

Feeding wild birds is a rewarding activity all year round and it is gaining in popularity. With some judicious planning you can create a bird habitat in your backyard that will attract a wide variety of delightful birds.

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Hanging out birdfeeders and filling them with birdseed may not be enough to attract a wide variety of birds to your yard. In addition to providing a food source, a bird habitat would include water for drinking and bathing, along with nesting spots and shelter from the weather and predators.

Birds will especially appreciate your efforts to create a bird habitat in winter and spring when their natural food sources are scarce. Providing bird habitat not only helps the birds, but all of the bird activity and their bright colors and chatter will liven up an otherwise drab winter backyard. Imagine looking out onto your winter backyard to see a variety of birds in your trees, looking for all the world like little natural ornaments. In the spring as the songbirds cheerily go about their business of attracting mates and staking out territory, you can delight in their lovely songs.

A pond, stream or shallow birdbath can satisfy birds, needs for water to drink and bathe in. Birdbath heaters can be used to keep the water from freezing in cold winter climates. Some birds appreciate having a stone they can perch on in the birdbath while they get a drink from a birdbath, while others are happy to perch on the rim.

No matter what style of birdbath you prefer, the birds will appreciate it if the water level is no more than two inches deep. Change the water often; birds are not known to be neat bathers and they don't rinse off their feet before entering the birdbath. Help prevent spreading disease in your bird habitat by cleaning the birdbath weekly to prevent a buildup from dirty bird feet and algae.

For an ideal bird habitat, situate the birdbath about ten feet from a small tree or shrub. Birds will perch in the tree to evaluate their bathing opportunity before they decide the coast is clear and it is safe to get a drink or bathe.

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If you also include birdfeeders in your bird habitat, be sure to keep the feeders clean to help avoid spreading diseases that are spread where birds congregate. A weekly scrubbing with a ten percent bleach solution will do the trick, then rinse the feeder well to eliminate the bleach odor. If you live in an area where bears are active, keep the birdfeeder on a wire that is at least ten feet above the ground. You may also choose to feed birds with a birdfeeder only when the bears are hibernating.

Trees, shrubs and vines entice birds to your bird habitat by providing nesting places and hiding spots from predators. From a bird's point of view, a yard that is filled with a variety of both short and tall trees, bushes, vines and brush piles is more attractive than a vast expanse of lawn punctuated by the occasional small tree. If your yard isn't a haven for birds, it can easily be transformed with the addition of suitable trees and shrubs.

Evergreens of all kinds make excellent bird habitat, especially in winter when the dense foliage blocks the biting wind. In addition, plants that have fruit that persists throughout winter are important food sources for birds. These would include bayberry, hackberry, flowering crabapple and juniper.

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Native plants are especially attractive as bird habitat, because these are the plants that birds recognize as a food source. Birds will flock to your backyard if they find chokeberry growing there, or huckleberries, American holly, serviceberry, Blackhaw viburnum, blueberries, flowering dogwood or inkberry. In the warm areas of the southwestern United States, plant toyon, sugar bush, pheasant berry and mesquite for berries and seeds that birds love.

Grasses and perennials are suitable for a bird habitat because they provide seeds for food and also nest-building material. Plant sunflowers, coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, and allow them to go to seed. These plants will attract goldfinches and chickadees that will happily feast on the seeds and entertain you with their cheerful songs and antics. Switch grass provides seeds through the winter, along with little bluestem grass or Mexican feather grass.

Some birds like to scratch around in leaf litter as they search for worms and insects. Improve your bird habitat to attract brown thrashers and rufous-sided towhees by allowing some leaf litter to remain beneath some shrubs.

In the spring when birds are busily building nests in anticipation of raising a family, tuck some dryer lint, pet hair and bits of string in amongst your shrubs and trees. The birds and their babies will appreciate the soft building material. Those birds who use mud in their nests, such as phoebes and swallows, will be attracted to a nice squishy mud puddle when they are setting up housekeeping.

Once you have created your bird habitat, you'll be repaid with many hours of pleasure as you watch each bird enjoying your backyard.

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