• Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Did the keys to gardening for birds surprise you? Are there keys that you are already doing in your yard, or maybe keys you think might be particularly hard to do? Share your thoughts in the discussion below.
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    • Susanne
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      We’ve done a good job of creating a bird-friendly habitat, with a plethora of native oaks and shrubs, biodiversity, and vertical diversity. I would like to add more berries. We have a dedicated space behind our feeders that is “messy” and we leave our leaves on the ground as long as we can stand it. I’m eying a small, dying tree that I’m hoping we can leave in place. We have plenty of water, hiding places, nesting places, etc. I’d like to reduce the amount of lawn space, and every year we chip away at it a bit. What frustrates me most is that when I go to my local plant stores they carry so many non-natives and I often can’t find any native plants at all, or they are not marked. It shouldn’t be so much work to purchase native plants, and nurseries should be doing more to educate those who may have no idea how important native plants and biodiversity are for our birds and our environment at large.
    • JadeJean
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      • Include Native Plants
        • We have native plants throughout our land, but I have quite a few Mesquite trees (Devil trees) to remove. They act pretty invasive even though plenty native to dry regions and will continue to make it difficult on native species to survive due to their ability to outcompete other native plants and can make massive changes to vulnerable ecosystems if not careful. I will keep the main one, for instance, due to providing sufficient coverage and insects for birds and other creatures, but the smaller new growths have no purpose other than choking out other native species due to their water consumption.
      • Invite Biodiversity
        • We have numerous bird species that are permanent residents or continuous visitors during non-breeding times [E.g., Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis), Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus), Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor), Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis, Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata), Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos), varying Blackbirds (Icteridae), American Robins (Turdus migratorius), Yellow-Rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata), Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis, especially during hard, unexpected freezes), House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris, most surprising for us), Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus), Rock Pigeons (Columba livia, Common), Ruby-Crowned Kinglets (Corthylio calendula), et cetera]. With the varying level of phytodiversity, we have different sources of food that satisfy those from grain- and berry-lovers to insectivores and all in between.
        • I definitely do want to continue introducing more native-specific bird-loving plants and removing any I learn are invasive, et cetera.
      • Create Vertical Diversity
        • We have had a variety of overgrown grass clump sections to brush to downed trees and limbs to the fully-grown woodland trees and forested trees themselves. Now, I want to specifically focus on adding a variety of bird-specific and native-specific plants for this region while slowing removing any that end up being non-native, especially invasive.
      • Embrace Some Messiness
        • We have never been big on trying to combat leaves due to being near so many trees, but we will simply sweep them off of our concrete path areas, et cetera, but those leaves simply end up piling up with the other leaves already on natural ground. The winds tend to naturally move leaves into piles away from the areas we would prefer them not to be anyway. Nature seems to work with us a lot. We also make use of letting grass grow up naturally in many areas, especially in our pasture where we only mow a perimeter around it while leaving the massive center section growing free with wildflowers, which I really want to do more with this by planting more native wildflowers, including planting the two species of Texas Bluebonnet that grow out here (Lupinus texensis, mostly this one, and Lupinus subcarnosus) in a very specific area for their protection.
      • Offer Year-Round Abundance
        • I want to continue studying this more. This is the main reason for wanting to add more native plants, so I can really focus on the year-round availabilities, because we do have a thriving bird population here during the non-breading season in Texas.
      • Keep Bird Visitors Safe
        • Our windows are very obvious for bird visitors due to the design and multiple framing breaks on them, but we also use window feeders, since they are very easy to keep fresh and clean, as well as they break up the windows even more and give another safe place for birds away from squirrels and the prying eyes of predators, as we have many trees around our abode, as well. The Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) and other very small Passerines really love these little feeders, supporting the wee ones!
      • Edit:
        • I do want to incorporate more varying bird baths (low and high) as a part of vertical biodiversity, but I would also love to work with solar-powered fountain pumps or drips or whatever to facilitate more water movement to attract more birds and keep the water healthier in between cleanings and freshening. I currently have basic, small glass bird baths in shaded areas near feeders.
    • Marc
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      Chez moi, depuis longtemps, j'ai mis en pratique beaucoup de ces idées. Mais mon problème c'est que j'ai beaucoup d'arbre et il y a un problème de compétition racinaire et j'ai de la difficulté à garder mes vivaces. En plus, l'ombre cause problème. Cet hiver, du côté sud de mon terrain, j'ai abattu des arbres qui nuisaient aux lignes électriques. Un problème de résolu: j'aurai plus de soleil et je pourrai remettre plusieurs vivaces. Les arbres abattus seront remplacés par des arbres ou arbustes de dimension moindre et à fruit. J'emploie beaucoup de pailli de petites branches et c'est un plaisir de voir le merle s'y délecter. J'ai une pièce d'eau où plusieurs espèces d'oiseau viennent s'y abreuver et s'y baigner.  
    • Nicolas
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      We need to add more flowering plants and shrubs with berries to provide food and shelter. Since we live in an apartment complex, we can't have a brush pile. Luckily, a wooded area nearby does provide shelter and natural food. I don't think the maintenance workers use fertilizers or pesticides, so that's a pro. The grassy areas near the apartments are regularly kept short, limiting its appeal to birds. I regularly clean the bird feeders and keep them close to the windows. Our cats stay indoors, so they can't hunt any birds. The bird bath is cleaned and refilled every few days, so there's always fresh water. We have bark for mulch, so there are lots of places for insects( a.k.a bird food) to live. Overall, my local area is okay, but there is room for improvement.
    • Rose
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      We are in good shape with shrubs and a woodland with snags and debris behind our house but need plants with berries. We have a lot of shifting shade so we will do some research on the native plant options that might work well in dense shade in Zone 7/8. Autumn enjoys birds-from the screened porch!
    • Kate
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      A big project this year will be replacing invasive shrubs with native plants that provide more year round shelter and food for birds.  I'd like to increase the variety of plants and add a trellis.  The majority of my yard is grass so it would be nice to establish some more space for flowering plants and shrubs.  I'm happy with the placement of my feeders, but I'd love to find a more protected spot for the bird bath.
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      I would like to increase berries and fruit in my yard. Did not realize berries and fruit can provide birds with needed fat during the winter.
    • Colleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      Without knowing much about gardening for birds "specifically", I surprisingly have done a fair job in the year since we moved into our new house with a blank-slate yard, just by concentrating on planting natives... What I already had tentatively planned to add this year and down the road is pretty good, too! I will however likely be changing the locations of my bird feeders and will consider adding a larger water feature (maybe a small pond/pool with a waterfall?) to supplement my birdbaths.
    • Madalyn
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I was excited to hear how good leaving the leaves is, because we already did that!  We definitely need to get some sort of water feature, and add way more flowing plants.  I also realized we have plenty of shrubs but no ground cover, which seems easy enough to fix.
    • Gail
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      I did not think about placement of the feeders and how it makes it more dangerous for birds.  Fortunately, our feeders are far away or very close to the house.  I have been working on making my property optimal bird and wildlife habitat since I moved in 7 years ago.  I have included a diversity of native wildflowers, berry shrubs, vines, and pruned our apple trees to make them healthier.  We live on 5 acres of which 4 acres are heavily forested with hemlock, white pine, birches, beeches, aspens, maples and oaks.  So we have lots of tree seeds and nuts for the birds. I have goldenrod growing around the edge of the forest and a large pollinator garden.  I grow herbs and vegetables -and the bees/insects love thyme flowers.  We have a small pool, but I need to create running water and a place for the birds to get in and bathe.  I liked the idea of adding a small dish-like container with water on the edge of my pool so the birds have a place to bathe and drink.  The pool is too deep. Otherwise, I think we are creating good habitat for the birds-lots of leaf litter and brush piles throughout the gardens and woods.
    • Carol
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      We just moved into this house, and the yard is primarily grass, with a few non-native shrubs and 2 large blue spruce.  We are essentially starting with a clean slate, and the information presented in this section will be very helpful for planning a bird and pollinator garden. One question about keeping birds safe - our neighborhood is ruled by crows.  Any suggestions for plants that provide nesting habitat that would be protective from crows?  Either through camouflage, dense or thorny foliage, or...? Zone 4.
    • Margo
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      I don't think I was surprised, and I'm satisfied that our yard already includes many bird friendly features.  I can't take all the credit.  When we moved in five years ago, there was little lawn.  Removing what was left wasn't that hard!  We did have an issue with bird strikes in the windows, and one surprise was the recommended distance for feeders to be close to or away from the house.  We did install stickers in windows, which weren't very effective.  We switched to BirdSavers (https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/gear/preventing-bird-window-collisions/strings-nettings-screens-prevent-bird-window-collisions/) two years ago, and those have worked very well.  You are right.  After a while, you don't even notice them. I have had to work at embracing some messiness.  It is harder than I expected to not rake or rake toward gardens, but leave the leaves!  Leaving limbs and having a rough area in the yard is working fine.  With the range of birds that visit, some of the plants I have added have been eaten pretty quickly by the combination of birds, rabbits, and squirrels.  At least I don't have deer!  I laugh every time I read a comment about leaving the coneflower heads to the birds can eat the seeds.  Some hungry animal eats the heads off the flowers before anyone gets to the seed heads. I would welcome suggestions for berries and nuts that work in the Pacific Northwest.  I do have Oregon grape and beauty berry in my yard.  I'm thinking of adding a native blueberry.  I do have pines and evergreens and lots of pinecone seeds.  Thanks for any suggestions.
    • Leonard
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Overall, I believe we are making good progress in the right direction. For a small lot we have good diversity and high percentage of native plants and trees that are in turn attracting a diverse group of birds, mammals, and invertebrates. We also have good vertical diversity ranging from  a mix of native  and non-native ground cover to shrubs and trees with a maximum height of 50 to 75 ft (includes oak and spruce). We also provide fallen leaf coverage where ever possible. Areas of improvement would be to add more native fruit-bearing vegetation for year round foraging. For bird safety, we make sure all outside lights are turned off at night and window blinds are angled to reduce reflection during daytime hours. One problem I continue to have is that of neighbors continuing to let their cats outdoors! (verified by a camera trap photos).  This is a not a new problem across our country (or the world) but it needs to be more openly addressed. I do wildlife rescues and I try to educate the public that keeping their cat indoors is also safer for them...and they are just as happy.
      • theresa
        Participant
        Chirps: 1
        I too have a problem with my neighbors cat. The cat thinks my yard is Disneyland and is always skulking around trying to catch birds. I chase her out, but as soon as I’m gone she’s back. Any suggestions for cat repellent plants would be welcome.
      • Carol
        Participant
        Chirps: 3

        @theresa Regarding cats - I have used a live trap and a thorough dousing with a garden hose before loosing the cat.  When it is warm outside, of course.  So far, a zero return rate and no harm to the cat. Also, at least where we live, the local animal control folks will also set a live trap in your yard and take the cat into custody where the owners will have to bail them out of jail.  Another approach might be to encourage the cat owners to keep the cat(s) inside during the dawn and dusk hours and at night.  This may at least cut down on predation.

    • Jenifer
      Participant
      Chirps: 18
      I need to definitely work on vertical diversity in areas of my yard. I also want to increase my offerings to birds especially during the winter months to provide more berries and more nuts. This will be a strong focus for me since in the past birds in my area have relied on the feeders I had out. Now I want to get away from feeders because of the number of diseases that seem to be affecting birds nationwide.
      • Margo
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        I agree and like you am working to reduce my birds relying on feeders.  Our area of WA State had a terrible experience with pine siskin finch swarming and an outbreak of salmonella area wide.  I hope I don't see that again.  I have many recommended features in my yard already, but the yard is pretty thin on nuts and berries.
    • Andrea
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Our bird blind for bird watching is located along our trail system that includes evergreens, hardwoods, and a wide variety of native plants that can support birds, butterflies, moths, and other insects. We need to add a bird bath as well as increase the vertical diversity around the bird watching blind.
    • Noreen
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I have a small space that I'm transforming. Bye Bye lawn, hello  biodiversity.
    • Kathleen
      Participant
      Chirps: 28
      I have been gardening for wildlife for over 10 years, so I was already familiar with these 'keys to gardening for birds'. It's an ongoing process, though, so I am still getting rid of more and more lawn - and adding more and more native plants, improving biodiversity, along with vertical diversity. I inherited a lot of beautiful, very tall (90 ft!) mostly non-native pine trees and a few large native hickory trees - to which I've added smaller native trees, native shrubs, and a large native prairie garden. The smaller trees and shrubs created better vertical diversity. Hedges along the borders of property are called 'wildlife corridors' and I have worked on creating these, too, as they are also important to wildlife. My best success is probably my  native prairie garden because it has so much biodiversity and prairies are so badly needed now in the midwest. I've learned to be more messy and appreciated the support about that in this lesson. It can be hard to be in the suburbs, where everyone else has such a different approach to landscaping. In terms of keeping birds safe, a tip I can share is that I did have a window that was hit by a bird and putting a feeder right in front of it, along with decals solved the problem. Decals can only last 3-4 months, though. 'Feather Friendly' has a 'Window Collision Tape' with a dot pattern that lasts 10 years!! If the view out the window is important, decorative film.com has vertical or horizontal stripes (Solyx SXBSFH) that are probably among the least distracting. Otherwise, one can have some arty fun with stained glass, window gem effects, or patterns (birds, snowflakes, etc).
    • Margaret
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I have a small, urban yard in central Michigan. While my space is small, I am encouraged by the increasing number of native plantings and grassless yards in my neighborhood. An urban farm nearby recently installed a native pollinator seed library, so I hope more people consider natives when caring for their lawns. I have a fairly good assortment of native flowering plants including: purple coneflower, black-eyed Susans, bee balm, columbine, blazing star, irises, sunflowers, and hostas. I have given consideration to when these flowers bloom, mostly because I like to look at flowers through spring, summer, and fall. I have some vertical diversity with a flowering street tree out front and a large lilac shrub and trees surrounding my backyard. I do have a small bit of grass in my front yard and a small backyard. Over a few years I have gotten rid of some grass, but I have young kids, so I don't think I could go completely without some open space. Embracing some messiness was a good reminder to leave flower heads and stalks. A challenge, though, is that many zoning ordinances require grass to be cut and brush piles cleared (at least what is visible from the street). This lesson provided a good reminder to clean my feeders (although currently I have taken them down due to the bird illness moving across the eastern US). I did not know about the importance of feeder placement and will evaluate my feeders when I put them back up. Outdoor and feral cats, sadly, roam my neighborhood. I am not sure there is much I can do about the cats. I aim for my yard to have a look of tidy wildness. From this lesson, I will look into adding a moving water feature to my yard (likely a small fountain) and more native plants (ferns, lupines, phlox, yarrow, small berry producer). Limited space will be my biggest challenge, but I could give up more of my front yard. I might consider lasagna mulching in the fall.
      • Jenifer
        Participant
        Chirps: 18
        I read somewhere that mulching leaves - instead of allowing them to naturally break down - will kill some butterfly and other beneficial insect cocoons that overwinter in the leaves. In order for my front yard to look more tidy (and part of my back yard) I just rake the leaves under bushes and logs so that they are not noticeable. It seems to work. The leaves will break down during the winter months. I also cover plants up with the leaves to protect them from cold weather (I live in Connecticut) and place burlap around the plants so that it looks “neater” for the neighbors I have who like their tidy looking monocultures. I also have cats in my neighborhood - I am going to try working with our town council on that problem. I think the only way to approach that problem is to start to change the thinking of important decision makers in your town.
    • Tatiana Sanchez
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I put in my window image of protection for birds too, less grass and more native plants.
    • lulu
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      birds only signbird sanctuary signkea + kiwi I have been mostly encouraged to learn that without knowing it, I've created a naturescape. I love my garden and love seeing birds enjoy it too, I feel very connected to my ecosystem. BUT!!!!! How do I keep the neighbours' cats out? Well, asking their owners to discourage them doesn't work - they bring the cats with them when they visit, grrrrrrr! They won't put a bell on their cats. They (the neighbours) regularly climb my gates/fences looking for their cats. So, in exasperation, I advertised my back garden as a bird sanctuary. I put up signs (for the neighbours, not the cats) and made cut-outs of birds (including some native to my home country, New Zealand) and hope the neighbours at least will get the message. I also hope the big wooden owls and the kea will scare the cats, not the birds. Can I mention I have a big water pistol too?
      • Jenifer
        Participant
        Chirps: 18
        Wow! I love what you have done - so artistic. Keep up the good work. I too have problems - several neighbors own free roaming cats and will not bring them in. So, I am presenting at a town council meeting in a few weeks to propose a leash law for cats. There are several cities in the US that have these laws, but not nearly enough. I hope that I can somehow raise awareness, but I am not sure exactly how to go about doing it. . I don’t know if I will be successful in my home town changing thinking. I am not sure. It seems that some cat owners disregard the need or importance of native wildlife.
    • Christopher
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I recently purchased a new bird feeder pole. It has a cylinder baffle to control squirrels, rats and raccoons. It's quite fun giving an IQ test to squirrels. IMG_20210603_165048602 IMG_20210603_162139644_HDR Sadly, I have to put the feeder approximately six feet from the house. Due to its height. Most of the birds are aware of my window ironically. I can generally tell when a new bird has come to the feeder. The birds that are residents of the property will frequently hover in front of the window. Mostly to annoy the cat.
    • Marguerite
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I'm going to find crabapple trees and other native berry shrubs to add to the food sources when the weather turns colder.  A challenge will be developing a year-round water source.  I tried to seed my "meadow" area with native wildflowers that bloom at different times so I really hope that over time, the flowers will bloom - I won't cut off the deadheads! I was surprised to discover that I had so few native plants and shrubs on my property, except for the variety of tall trees, so I have been trying to plant more and more native plants and shrubs.
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      The two areas I'd like to improve in our yard are year-round abundance and keeping birds safe. I leave the seed heads on my plants, but we need to provide more overwintering berries and nut sources. We have many screened windows, but a few casement windows have screens on the inside. I have marked vertical stripes with a white paint pen on the largest window, but that was challenging to make attractive. I bought sticker tape for the remaining windows and need to put them on the remaining windows. We also need to re-locate our feeders closer to cover or add cover to the current locations.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 17
      Our yard has a fairly good assortment of trees, shrubs and some newly planted native perrenials.  I had never really thought about yard waste and brush piles though.  I am thinking of creating corners of brush piles where it can be tucked away but still provide resources (we live in an area of  "perfect lawns").  I have been slowly getting rid of our front lawn, initially with some raised bed planters, and now am working on a perrenial garden so I will definitely try to incorporate more tall grasses, shrubs, ground cover, etc.
    • Monica
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      When considering trees and shrubs, I focused on bloom time for the pollinators.    I gave minimal consideration as to when the fruits, berries, and nuts would be available.    I will be revisiting this soon to ensure seasonal availability and tweak if necessary.   I also will be revisiting vertical diversity.   I have different layers but they are mainly scattered throughout the yard.  I will work on incorporating different heights within the same bed or in close proximity.   Year round water source is a perennial problem.   Finally, my mindset is getting better regarding "messiness".   So that is a plus for me.  As for the neighbors, I hope to plant some shrubs/thickets to camouflage the garden behind the barn (although they say they enjoy watching the birds).
    • Janet
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      The addition of a constant water source is my challenge.  I would love a natural looking source that I can use all year, not just my simple bird bath.  I am starting on my "messy" yard, so have lots to think about.  I think patience is a key to allow the plants to fill in naturally and not over plant all at once.  So much to think about.
    • LAURA
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I definitely have seed-bearing plants (coneflowers, sunflowers, buttonbush, grasses), some fruit-bearing plants (serviceberry, crabapple, viburnum), and some nectar plants (columbine, cardinal flower), but I never thought to look at the seasonality of food supply. Does anyone know of a website where you can determine what time of year, for example, different berries might ripen?
      • Jeannie
        Participant
        Chirps: 2
        I am not sure where you are located but a very useful website loveyourlandscape.org   Lists six berry-producing native plants that support birds in winter and lists the species of birds that are attracted to each plant.
    • Martin
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      I had never given any conscience thought to "vertical" diversity until this lesson!  I was aware of it of course by walking though woods and other natural areas but as to landscaping my yard up and down to promote biodiversity would have been done accidentally.  As with many 30+ year old city neighbourhoods, lot size can impose landscaping limits.  I live in a duplex and my "half" of the lot is ~30' x 100'. Fortunately for me, one of my immediate neighbours has a large lilac bush following our shared fence which is quite full.  My other neighbour has mostly lawn but has landscaped the boarders of her yard with Easter White Cedars, a Flowering Crab Apple and several flowering plants.  My third "neighbour is a K-8 school where the school board has a mix of shrubs and trees along the boarder between the parking area and my yard. As to my vertical landscaping, I have some lawn in both my front and back yards.  The front yard has a couple flowerbeds, a small shrub line and a 20+ year old Norway(?) Maple that is quite full and ~35' tall.  Earlier this spring, I dugout and replaced a small circular flowerbed around the truck of the maple where I transplanted some hostas species and a couple of plants from the mint family.  My back yard has several raised beds where four raised beds where I grown strawberries and various vegetables for our consumption.  In amongst the vegetables are marigolds and borage.  The other beds I have planted flowers to primarily attract wildlife.  As I have already mentioned my small pond in early discussion boards, I will add that I have directed any overflow from the pond into a bog/peat garden where I have iris species growing.  The Pin Cherry is providing about a 25' vertical height and the pergola over my vegetable beds also provides some vertical habitat and I do have some messy areas in my back yard which are not too large (and yet still bother my wife...;)).
    • Barbara
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      I prefer to use leaf litter as mulch in my yard. It’s free! Since I have a natural area on two sides of my yard it’s easy to leave fallen limbs and brush piles there. I am experiencing some bird strikes in the spring so I need to work on that.