The single most-beneficial act that you can make
to attract birds to your yard is plant native
plants. Our endemic birds find food, shelter and
nesting sites with those plants. They recognize
them. They know when their fruit is ripe and which
insects they might find on them. They know how
to use them in constructing nests. They know their
growth habits and how to get around in them. They
are their friends.
Provide Exposed Ground
By exposed ground we mean garden compost or leaf/needle
mulch. Garden compost sits on or is mixed with
dirt. When exposed, for example, in a vegetable
garden or around ornamentals, it provides unimpeded
access to the bugs, worms, seeds and other food
stuff found in or on the soil. Leaf mulch (or
preferably a leaf mulch and wood chip blend) is
what is typically found on forest floors and edges.
Seeds get trapped in the leaves. Bugs of all sorts
can live there or just under. While we often think
of birds as eating berries or flying insects,
many of our song birds are ground feeders. Without
access to ground, there is no feeding.
It is interesting, and
even surprising, to know than many of our song
birds, almost 1/3 in the Pacific Northwest, are
ground nesters: song sparrows, juncos, pacific
wren, to name but a few. Currently, they nest
in Forest Park and Oaks Bottom and other areas
with adequate leaf and plant debris and relative
freedom from predators, primarily house cats.
By providing mulchy, leafy ground (and proper
plant life above), you provide not only access
to food, but with a little good fortune (and absence
of cats), nesting sites.
A pitcher and a few glasses work well, but make
sure that each glass is light enough for a bird
to lift. Seriously, water is a critical element
of life and as our development practices continue
to cover streams and drain wetland, water is increasingly
more difficult for birds to find. Providing a
bird bath, trough, rain garden with puddles, pond,
or the like is a great way to bring water to birds
and beneficial insects, and to bring the beauty
the afford to your homes.
Water Idea: A cost-effective
way of bringing water to your yard is to dig an
opening big enough for a kiddie pool and cover
the pool with a brown tarp. Then dig a surface
level trench 3-4" and insert a pipe (standard
2" drain pipe works fine) that is connected
to one or more of your downspouts. Each time it
rains, your "pond" gets filled. And
any over flow can support a neighboring rain garden
or blueberry patch, or the like.
Landscape-Based Ways to Attract Birds
Huh? Well, as noted above,
birds like access to exposed ground for eating
the grubs and worms, etc., found near the surface.
Birds will also glean harvest spoils (unharvested
fruits and vegetables) and insect pests. Some
birds even eat slugs! Who are they and how do
I get them to come to my house (and eat only
Plant Edible Berries and
Horticultural plants –
blueberries, raspberries, apple and plum trees,
etc. – are liked by humans and birds alike.
You might loose a little of your harvest to bird
predation, but you can address that with bird
netting, etc. The joy and wonder brought by these
visiting neighbors is worth “sharing”
a little food. Editor’s note: I once saw
a pileated woodpecker eating a left apple straight
off the tree in late November in Corvallis. It
fearlessly worked away as I inquisitively examined
it from the trunk a mere six feet away.
Most flowers and flowering
shrubs are “pretty,” yet some of those
pretty plants are also very good nectar producers
(see list under Bees & Benificial Insects
- Nectar Plants). There are many ornamentals that
are good nector plants. Nectar attracts some birds
directly, such as hummingbirds, and attracts other
indirectly, the insectivores, by attracting the
insects upon which they prey. Plant these and
you’ll get insects, birds and “Wild
Kingdom” live in your yard.
I have no scientific data
to back this one up, only empirical evidence.
Perhaps birds get a feeling of safety or security
when the see their large feather friends calmly
parading about a yard? Certainly, free-range chickens,
by virtue of their kicking and scratching, expose
dirt and bring the benefits of exposed ground.
If you do free-range your chickens, we suggest
controlled grazing, by amount of time or a moving
pen/corral. Otherwise, chickens may be a little
hard on a landscape.
Yes! This is a non-trivial
undertaking, yet well worth it in its own right.
One benefit of the tens of thousands of bees coming
and going from your hives is that they are fodder
for insectivores. Birds, some of which you would
not likely see otherwise, will appear in your
yard and swoop down in, acrobatically gorging
themselves. While the show can be surprising and
even spectacular, fortunately, there is little
damage to the bee population.