Wild Bird Gardening with Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo

Creating a Well-Stocked Bird Garden
The first step in designing a bird garden is to evaluate your yard from a bird's perspective. Does it provide the basic necessities - food, water, shelter - that birds need to survive? If not, which are lacking? If there's a shortage of food, consider planting some fruit-bearing trees or shrubs. Plants that hold their fruits through the winter provide a vital food source for non-migratory birds. Add variety to the kinds of food you offer, and you'll attract a wider variety of bird species.

A good water source will draw birds like a magnet. Even just a common birdbath purchased at a garden supply shop will do. Some people hang a plastic bottle or jug of water with a hole in the bottom over their birdbath. The motion and sound of the dripping water is irresistible to many birds.

Does your yard have an area of dense thickets that birds could use for nesting, secluded perching, or escape cover? If not, then plant some shrubs or make a hedge. Consider growing some vines up the side of your house or along your fence. Try to create lush, wild growth in a few places to simulate natural environment.

You should be able to find some excellent plants for your garden in a nursery-either local or mail order. (If you buy from an out-of-state nursery, however be sure that the plants you purchase will be hardy in your region.)

When you're designing your yard, consider how large each plant will be when it matures. Remember that a lovely little tree that you plant today may become a giant behemoth that hogs your entire yard in a few years. So, shop wisely and avoid making a costly error.

Leave dead limbs and even entire dead trees where they are (unless they're dangerous to people or property). The insects tunneling under the bark are an important food source for birds such as chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Furthermore, old hollow trees are becoming increasingly scarce and cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds and woodpeckers are having a difficult time finding nesting sites. A dead tree can look attractive in a garden particularly if it has ivy growing up its trunk.

Use dead branches that fall from your trees to start a brush pile. It will afford protection to the birds from harsh weather and predators. To start a brush pile, lay down some thick branches about two feet deep, then add some thinner branches on top. Over that, add some thin conifer branches.

Before you start planting, design your bird garden on paper. Draw up your property, showing your house and all existing plantings.

Go Easy with those Bird Feeders!
They can spell d-a-n-g-e-r to a bird!

One of the quickest ways to attract birds to your yard is by placing well-maintained bird feeders around your yard. Bird feeders, however, also attract local cats, hawks and falcons. Before setting up a bird feeder consider whether there are "escape" shrubs and hiding places near the feeder. Make sure there is an unobstructed view around the feeders to dining birds can see a stalking cat approaching the feeder. And, please, clean those feeders daily. Birdfeeders can be a source of many avian diseases passed through seed hulls and bird droppings!

Bird friendly trees:
 

Trees

 

Black Sherry

Prunus pensylvanica

Choke Cherry

Prunus virginiana

Crab Apple

Malus sp.

Dogwood

Cornus florida

Mulberry

Morus sp.

Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana

Serviceberry

Amelanchier sp.

Picea sp.

 

White Pine

Pinus strobes

Shrubs

 

American Elder

Sambucus canaden.

Arrowwood

Viburnum recognit.

Bayberry

Myrica pensylvanica

Bottlebrush

Cephalanthus occ.

Canada Yew

Taxus Canadensis

Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia

Silky Dogwood

Cornus amomum

Staghorn Sumac

Rhustyphina

Winterberry

Ilex verticillata

Vines

 

Virginia Creeper

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Wild Grapes

Vitis sp.

Great References:
Backyard Birdfeeding for Beginners,
Mathew Tekulsky, Three Rivers Press, 1999

The Birder's Catalogue: The Sourcebook for Birding Paraphernalia,
Sheila Buff, A Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster Inc. 1989

Hosting the Birds: How to Attract Birds to Nest in Your Yard,
Jan Mahnken, A Garden Way Publishing Book, 1989

Your Backyard Wildlife Garden: How to Attract and Identify Wildlife in your Yard,
Marcus Schneck, Rodale Press, Inc., 1992

Landscaping for Wildlife,
Carol Henderson, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 1987