Putting up a feeder is an easy way to attract birds. But if you want to attract a wider variety of species, prefer your backyard birds to get a more natural diet, or wish to satisfy more than birds' nutritional needs, consider landscaping your yard—even just a part of it—to be more bird-friendly. Even a small yard can provide vital habitat. All it takes is a little time and effort, all the easier if you already enjoy gardening. The rewards are beautiful birds that add color and music to your life year-round.
Creating and preserving habitat for birds has never been more important—as the human population grows, suitable bird habitat is disappearing rapidly, gobbled up by housing developments, roads, shopping malls, and airports. Nearly 80 percent of the habitat on which wildlife depends in the United States is in private hands, and an average of 2.1 million acres each year are converted to residential use, so every backyard is important.
Bird habitat essentials: food, water, and shelter. Images (L-R) Susan Spear © Cornell Lab of Ornithology; ©; USFWS.
There are three basic things that all birds need from their habitats:
FOOD: Your yard can be landscaped to provide fruit, seeds, beneficial insects, and other small animals that birds feed upon.
- WATER: Birds need water for drinking and bathing. To learn about birdbaths, visit our Other Attractants: Water page. You may also consider constructing a small pond that will support frogs, toads, and small fish to attract a wider variety of birds.
- SHELTER: Whether it's a safe place for sleeping, a protected haven from the elements, a hiding place to elude predators, or a secure nesting spot, providing shelter is an important way to make your property bird-friendly.
Take a look at your property from a bird's perspective. Does it provide these things? If not, consider adding some or all of them. In the sidebar, there are useful tips about the best plants to grow, and other ways to enhance your backyard for birds.