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Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat

Bird on a Cherry Tree.

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Creating a bird-friendly environment is simply a matter of providing the creature comforts we all crave: food, protective cover, and a cozy spot for raising a family.

A diversity of trees, shrubs, and other plants, as well as ground covers and vines, offers a complete package for backyard bird habitation. Invite birds into your backyard and start enjoying a front-row view of nature's winged wonders.


Understanding a bird's preferences will help you determine which plants to grow. Different plants will provide for different needs, whether that bounty is in the form of seeds, fruits, nuts, or nectar, as well as for a host of plant-munching caterpillars and insects. A garden filled with a mixture of plants producing flowers, seeds, berries, and nuts will always attract the largest number and variety of birds.

  • For example, seed-eating birds, including goldfinches, chickadees, and towhees, will seek out seed heads from an assortment of flowering plants and ornamental grasses. Any daisy-like flowers such as sunflowers, asters, and black–eyed Susans, in addition to rudbeckias, zinnias, and echinaceas, would be good choices.
  • Finches, sparrows, and nuthatches are a few of the birds that will flock to marigolds, cosmos, coreopsis, goldenrod, phlox, and a wide selection of salvias.
  • Hummingbirds are happy with nectar from bee balm, geraniums, veronicas, delphiniums, and penstemons.

Remember, too, that birds are attracted to seasonal food. They will stay longer in your garden if it contains plants that flower or fruit at different times of the year.

  • For example, hollies and roses provide winter fruit.
  • Serviceberries and chokecherries offer late–spring berries.
  • Blueberries and mulberries bear summer fruit.
  • Honeysuckle and pyracantha round out the fruit season in the fall.


Plants that provide shelter—a safe haven from predators, protective cover from harsh weather, or a cozy spot, whether to nest or just settle in for the night—appeal to just about any bird, regardless of food preference. But a plant that provides food and shelter says, "Come on in."

  • Pine trees provide evergreen shelter enjoyed by many birds as well as nourishing pine seeds favored by chickadees.
  • Low-growing junipers not only hide birds from imminent danger, but also offer an insect buffet for ground–insect feeders such as wrens, towhees, and juncos, in addition to providing a bevy of berries for titmice and waxwings.
  • Some vines and shrubs (like Virginia creeper, clematis, service berry, and privet) are also multifunctional plants. Towhees, larks, and sparrows enjoy the seed heads of their spent flowers, while fruit-eating birds such as robins, thrushes, and tanagers gorge on their berries. These vines and shrubs also provide a safe haven.

As you develop your garden, consider grouping your plants in layers. You'll be creating a multilevel habitat of food and shelter for a variety of birds, whether they feed on the ground, in trees and bushes, or in the air.

  • Include fruit-bearing shrubs, deciduous trees, and evergreens of all heights in your upper layers.
  • At ground level, consider planting ground covers as well as petite perennials and annuals.
  • Fill the layers in between with perennials, annuals, ornamental grasses, and low-growing shrubs.

(See Related Articles above for a list of great Shrubs and Trees for Birds.)

When it all comes together, your garden just may become a bird's favorite place to be!

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I have a female cardinal that

By EMLang

I have a female cardinal that has been attacking my windows for the past two weeks. All day, every day. Im afraid she is going to eventually hurt herself. How can I deter her from this?

Cardinals (both male and

By Almanac Staff

Cardinals (both male and female) may peck at windows if they see their reflection, thinking it is another of their species. They are trying to defend their territory, especially during breeding/nesting. If you can, make your windows less reflective. You can try a number of things during this season, such as:

* putting up window screens
* soaping the outside of the window
* closing the curtain or pulling down the shades
* hanging a decoration or sticking a decal on the window
* temporarily adhering translucent plastic wrap to the interior of the window (be careful of children and pets), or using decorative window film
* placing several strips of masking tape on the window
* using stickers of silhouettes of hawks or other predators
* installing anti-glare window coverings on the exterior

You can also try moving any birdfeeders, etc., that you may have further away from the house.

Now if I can just get my

By ecarver

Now if I can just get my husband to agree to growing these things I would have a bird haven.

How does one prevent ants

By Ruth Parrett

How does one prevent ants from getting into the hummingbird feeder?

A little glob of Vaseline® on

By Lillian

A little glob of Vaseline® on top of the feeder (where the wire ties on) has worked very well for me… and it only needs to be refreshed every couple years (even here in the rainy Pacific Northwest).

I use hanging cups made by

By Anne Oneill

I use hanging cups made by the manufacturers of feeders.You keep them filled with water and they hang over the feeder. They definitely work for me.

What I do is spray the feeder

By gidgit5353

What I do is spray the feeder plus whatever you have it hanging with is Pam or any kind of cooking spray.

I live in Michigan's Upper

By donnamac

I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and an old coworker's rule was: "Put the feeders out after Memorial Day, and bring them in after Labor Day." And that seems to be right on. The hummers I've seen come looking for where the feeders hung the previous year, if I don't have them out yet! And taking them in after Labor Day stops you from worrying about preventing freezing. They seemed to really hit the feeders hard the last couple of weeks in August..wow...Great birds!

I was wondering, I live in

By Donna Spitzer

I was wondering, I live in Maryland, do hummingbirds migrate? Or should I attempt to feed them all year long? How do you keep the liquid from freezing? HELP. Thanks, Donna S.

Hi Donna, Try

By Eddiek

Hi Donna,
Try http://www.hummingbirds.net/map. People report hummingbirds at their feeders. It will give all the info you need. Enjoy!!

Hi I live in Oregon and not

By dipalmer

Hi I live in Oregon and not all hummingbirds migrate so i leave them out all year plus the one's that do migrate don't do it all at the same time so it's wise to leave them out so the passer buys can have some food for their trip.

Bring in your feeders the

By Anne Oneill

Bring in your feeders the second week in October. By then the migrants are gone. Clean feeders and store until the azaleas bloom in spring.

Hummingbirds in my area

By Craig King

Hummingbirds in my area (central Kentucky) are strictly warm weather birds, arriving in mid to late June, and staying until the end of August, or until the first cool nights send them south to a warmer climate. As ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only species of the bird east of the Mississippi River, I'm sure that the same conditions apply in Maryland, where your weather is very similar to ours.

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