How to - Wildlife

How to create a natural bird habitat in your garden

Signe Langford

Welcome insect eaters, seed eaters and nectar drinkers to your yard with these key tips

It takes very little encouragement to invite birds into your garden. All that’s needed are a few essentials—shelter, water, food—and your garden will sing! Birds are a vital part of our ecosystem as a whole and without them, your garden won’t flourish. Birds eat pesky insects and weed seeds, and just like our other flying friends, the bees, birds pollinate.

There are three major groups of Canadian songbirds: insect eaters, seed eaters and nectar drinkers. Of course many eat a bit of everything depending on availability and their nutritional needs season to season.

What do all birds need?

Shelter and coverage
Put up as many birdhouses as you can without overcrowding. Look for well-hidden spots, high off the ground. This can get costly, so scout second hand shops for birdhouses that only cost a couple of bucks. But perhaps even more importantly, create natural coverage by planting grasses, vines, shrubs and trees. This creates a terracing effect of coverage from low to high and will appeal to a wide variety of birds.

Hey, if you can go all out and install a water feature—a trickling fountain, or fish pond—for you and the birds to enjoy, fantastic! If not, a good old-fashioned birdbath will do. There has been some controversy regarding birdbath heaters. Some bird experts suggest warm, open water in winter will encourage off-season bathing, leading to frozen feathers, grounded birds, and well, dead birds. Just remember, the bigger the water feature, the bigger the bird you might attract. A small pond stocked with fish will look like a tasty buffet to a heron and a nursery to a pair of ducks.

In the winter it’s important to help the birds make ends meet, and you can do this by hanging out suet treats and offering plenty of seed. But it’s also important to create a self-sustaining environment that will naturally produce the kind of foods the birds in your area need. Planting the right trees and plants means birds will forage for what nature provides.

So, what are the ‘right trees and plants’? Well, that depends entirely on where you live, but whatever is indigenous to your area is precisely what the birds indigenous to your area will be drawn to. Check with your municipal forestry department for information.

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