Rufous Hummingbirds love native plants, like this common milkweed!
You do not have to be an expert to make your home and yard a safe habitat for birds and other wildlife. You can make a difference for bird populations by creating a safe place for them to conduct necessary life cycle activities, from building nests to finding safe food and water. In this "bird-friendly" article, we provide you with ten easy actions you can take to create a home suitable for any bird species.
Use native plants for bird habitat
Our favorite first step to making your home and yard bird-friendly is to plant native plants to provide essential bird habitat. Why? The leading cause of bird population loss since the 1970s is habitat loss. Native plants provide vital food and shelter throughout the annual life cycle of migratory and residential species. During the summer months, native flowers and grasses provide critical habitat for invertebrates like caterpillars and grasshoppers, which are an essential food source for hungry babies! Larger native plants like trees and shrubs give the necessary habitat structure for roosting or building nests. While migrating, birds often look for green corridors of habitats that host a variety of sources of foods and can be used for roosting. Dense and brushy habitats offer warmer roosting cover or winter food sources in winter. By planting native plants, you will be providing a valuable resource for birds in your area year-round.
These native plants supplement bird feeders and birdbaths and can help create connected habitat corridors through developed communities.
Hang a bird feeder
An essential second step for many bird lovers to attract and help birds in their yard is to provide an additional food source by feeding birds. Bird feeders provide a supplementary source of food to resident and migratory birds, often when it is most critically needed. A variety of birds will visit your feeder, so it is crucial to choose the feeders that meet the needs of the birds in your area. If you are unsure what kind of bird feeder to buy, check out our guide [future link or link to collection] to match the correct bird feeder to your local birds. Once you have your bird feeder, please keep it clean and well-stocked with fresh birdseed.
Provide a birdbath
A birdbath is another bird-friendly addition that can attract various birds to your yard while also ensuring a safe water source for our thirsty feathered friends. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, and birdbaths provide a place for them to do both! Keeping birdbaths clean and filled with fresh water is important, as bacteria and other maladies can spread quickly. Depending on the design and location, you may need to empty, clean, and refill it daily or weekly. Circulation and filtration systems can help lessen the cleaning burden. However, pumps and filters are not replacements for proper birdbath cleaning. Be sure to place the birdbath in an open area to allow birds 360-degree viewing opportunities, allowing the birds to watch for predators. A birdbath placed near or under bushes or trees can build up organic matter and require more frequent cleaning than a birdbath moved away from larger plants. Providing native trees and bushes in the vicinity of a birdbath can offer a quick escape from predators.
Fresh, clean water is critical for all animals, and providing it ensures you are making a positive impact.
Keep cats indoors
While many bird lovers also love their feline companions, keeping cats indoors is important to protect our birds and other native wildlife. Outdoor cats are the leading bird predator, and they can have a significant impact on local bird populations. Recent studies have indicated that even well-fed domestic cats can create a species blackhole within a small area surrounding their home. A single cat can kill hundreds or even thousands of birds in a year, making them a threat to both common backyard and rare migratory bird species. If you must allow your cat outdoors, please consider using a catio, keeping your feline on a leash, or monitoring their activities until it is time to bring them inside. With feral cats, TNR programs can reduce future cat populations, but they simply lack the ability to remove cats from the environment. Consider adopting cats and moving them indoors.
Keeping cats indoors is a simple conservation action that we should all agree on.
Prevent window strikes
Another decimator of birds is untreated windows. Birds are unable to understand what a reflection is, mistaking the reflection for open space. These birds may attempt to fly through the reflection, often resulting in fatal injuries. To protect birds from window strikes, use bird-safe window treatments like screens, decals, netting, window chalk, or film that will break up the reflections on the windows. Alternatively, you can keep your blinds or curtains closed during peak bird activity hours. If you have a bird feeder near windows, consider attaching it directly to the window, moving it over 30 feet from the window, or retrofitting your windows with the top options reviewed by the American Bird Conservancy.
Avoid pesticide use
Pesticides can be harmful to bird populations through direct contact or indirect exposure. Pesticides can cause various health problems in birds, including organ damage, reproductive issues, and death. The famous near-extinction of our national symbol, the Bald Eagle, was due to the use of DDT, a widespread pesticide.
Avoid using pesticides in your yard and instead opt for organic pest control methods. While organic gardens can be more difficult to manage, they offer greater health solutions for you and insects and benefit the birds that eat them!
Additionally, do not use rodenticides; raptors and other predatory animals can often ingest dying rodents, causing secondary poisoning and death.
Drink bird friendly coffee with the Bird Friendly certification
When you buy bird-friendly coffees, you support organic coffee farms in Central and South America that grow their coffee under a more natural forest canopy and avoid harmful pesticides. These shade-covered coffee farms have a bird-friendly certification that ensures the employment of more quality habitat for our migratory bird species from North America (and other native wildlife). Learn more about some of this author's favorite bird friendly coffees.
As for the coffee, the shade helps protect the coffee trees from harsh weather and keeps the coffee beans nice and dry, resulting in a richer flavor. The birds also protect these certified coffees, as pests are kept in check by feathered pest control.
Look for the Smithsonian Bird Friendly certification to battle wintering habitat destruction and help wildlife when you purchase your next bag of coffee! If your local store does not carry bird-friendly coffee, encourage them to seek out a wholesale opportunity.
Shut off lights at night
Artificial light at night can lure birds to a quick death from window impacts or a slow death by decreasing their body condition, increasing their risk for predation, or minimizing fat stores necessary to breed. To avoid this, shut off all unnecessary lights at night or use Audubon-recommended lighting practices. Alternatively, you can retrofit your light fixtures with special covers that block the light from shining upwards, preventing light from bleeding into the sky.
This simple action does not require a background in science, and you can complete it with the flip of a switch!
Buy a birdhouse
If you are unable to provide natural nesting habitat for birds, purchasing a birdhouse can offer a safe alternative! If you do not have the space for a birdhouse, consider purchasing a birdhouse and donating it to your local nature center. If buying a birdhouse is not possible, find free resources online to build your own birdhouse.
Birdhouses can increase your yard's biodiversity, as many species of birds do not use feeders. Choose the right birdhouse for the species you want to attract, as different species have different nesting requirements. Even in bluebirds, each bluebird species requires a slightly different nest hole size! Once you have your birdhouse set up, be sure to keep an eye on it and clean it out after each brood has fledged or left the nest.
Always monitor your birdhouse for interference from predators or non-native wildlife.
Birding is a great way to benefit birds while also supporting your mental and physical health. Local and regional conservation groups often organize community science efforts focused on birds and the birding community. These activities help scientists track bird populations and learn more about the birds in your area. So get out there and start birding!
A happy yard for happy birds
Bird feeding is not just about feeding birds; it is about fueling connections. Bird feeding is about nurturing one’s love for nature and giving passion a place to perch.
And that is exactly what Birds Choice does: We bring our customers closer to the world outside by bringing the outside world closer to them, transforming backyards into living sanctuaries. We are more than a manufacturer or a supplier; we want to share our passion with you, our fellow bird lovers, and bird feeders.
Continue your journey to help birds, by making the Birds Choice!