Invite the Birds to Your Garden

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
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Bird in birdbath with snow

Birds have the same basic requirements as we do: food, water, and shelter.

I leave one birdbath that is close to my backdoor turned up each winter so that I have a water source for the birds. I enjoy watching them and this is one thing that will attract them. Now if I could just keep the neighborhood cats away!

Evergreen trees and shrubs in the landscape provide shelter for birds from weather and predators. Even thick, deciduous shrubs can provide some shelter. In years past, I realized that my annuals killed by frost provided shelter to many small birds, so I have continued to leave them in my landscape. You can also create brush piles on your property if you don’t live where you have homeowner association rules restricting you from doing so. Just pick an out-of-the-way spot (you may want it out of sight for the most part) and stack your landscape debris. Birds, as well as small mammals, will quickly find and use them for cover.

If you had a cut Christmas tree this year, you can add it to your brush pile or you can stake it up in the landscape and attach pine cones swathed in peanut butter and rolled in birdseed. I did this one year in Virginia when we had two feet of snow and the squirrels found the feast and carried them all away within two days! You can also hang the peanut butter/birdseed cones in a shrub close to a window for observing the birds (and perhaps squirrels!) as they feed.

Many landscape plants produce berries that are often showy and that the birds use as food. Hollies and viburnums are two popular groups of shrubs with no major disease or insect problems that produce good crops of berries. Bird feeders can be as fancy as you want or can be as simple as an old recycled pan on the ground. Often when I have stale bread, I crumble and toss it onto my vegetable garden. The birds find it in a short time.

Birds know how to and are quite capable of surviving on their own. By providing them with just the basics, we can enjoy many hours in return watching them in our landscape.

NC State University has an excellent publication on managing backyards for birds, just do an internet search using the keywords “NCSU” and “backyard birds.”