Bring Birds To Your Backyard

 

When landscaping for the birds, remember to leave the seed heads on your flowers and grasses throughout the fall and winter, and to avoid major disturbance of your established plantings between mid-April and mid-August when they are nesting and rearing their young.

For More Information:

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wild Acres Program

Birds of North America Online

Baltimore Oriole photo credit: author of Wikipedia "List of Maryland Birds" article, user name: Mdf.; Other photos from Wikipedia Commons.

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The Baltimore Oriole, a late spring & summer resident, likes open woods, large shade trees.

 

As winter gives way to spring, you may notice birds perching and singing, their songs more full-throated each day. While many of our birds are year-round residents, some spend their fall and winter with us, while others arrive in spring and leave in fall. Some will be seen and heard only as they pass through. All of these birds need food, water, and cover wherever they are and wherever they go.

Each year many acres of land are transformed by residential and other development. This causes habitat loss and forest fragmentation, believed to be major factors in the decline of many bird species.

Some of this lost habitat can be replaced by planting yards and open areas in ways that provide the food, water, and cover that birds need.

If you decide to make your yard into a better bird habitat, it is helpful to make a comprehensive plan and implement it one small area at a time. Build upon the habitat that is predominant in your area. Some birds - meadowlarks and killdeers - prefer open fields, meadows, prairies. Bluebirds and field sparrows like meadows dotted with trees and shrubs. Scarlet tanagers and wood thrushes need mature deciduous forest. Herons, ducks, and kingfishers will be found near water. Goldfinches, cardinals, and blue jays like forest edges. If you wish to learn more about birds, please consult a field guide to eastern birds and a list of Maryland birds. But you don't have to know a lot about birds to make your yard into good habitat for them.


The Rufous-Sided Towhee, a forest edge resident, likes to forage in deciduous leaf litter. Let the leaves lie where they fall.

 

Because animals and plants have developed together, planting a variety of native species in groups provides good wildlife habitat. By choosing native trees, shrubs, grasses, and herbaceous plants that are suited to the soil conditions and sun exposure of your yard, you will also decrease the need for water and fertilizer once your plants are established.

For a more complete list of native plants, please consult Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping. Briefly, however, if you're planting for birds, good evergreen choices include white pine, hemlock, and eastern red cedar.  Medium to large deciduous trees include native oaks, maples, beech, and hickories. Small to medium deciduous trees include sassafras, sweet or cherry birch, and persimmon. Serviceberry, American wild plum, native dogwood species, and staghorn sumac are small trees/shrubs important to birds.

Shrubs include native viburnums, mountain laurel, witch hazel, spicebush, ninebark, blueberries, and elderberry.


The Carolina Wren is easily attracted to yards.

 

Flower choices include black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, coreopsis, Joe-Pye weeds and goldenrod species.

Grasses include red fescue and switchgrass.

Ferns include the sensitive, cinnamon, New York and marsh ferns.

With the right choice of plants, a rain garden created in a low spot to receive and control the rain runoff from your roof, walks and driveway will also provide quality bird habitat.

Birds need and delight in water for drinking and bathing. Providing it can be as simple as a bowl or birdbath refreshed daily. Nest boxes may help cavity nesters such as bluebirds and wood ducks.