Birds add interest, movement, color and even beautiful sounds to our gardens. Many bird species feed on insects, and this can help hold down populations of pests that may damage plants in landscapes or gardens. So what can we do to encourage birds to live in our landscapes? The primary features the environment must provide to invite birds into the landscape include shelter, nesting sites, water and food.
Although people often provide food and water for birds, shelter and nesting sites should not be overlooked. Difficulty in finding natural shelter near the food and water sources you supply may tempt birds to look elsewhere for a more promising environment. If you can provide a place for birds to nest, you’ll have the pleasure of seeing them frequently at close range and the advantage of allies in the control of insects. Adding levels to a plant community increases surface area by creating more leaves, stems, nooks and crannies on which birds can nest, feed and sing. The use of various sizes of shrubs and small and large trees planted in masses or groups will achieve this in a land- scape design.
Shelter for nesting may also be provided with birdhouses or bird boxes. These human-made structures, if properly built to specific dimensions and located in the right spot, can provide nesting sites for birds that would rarely find suitable sites in urban areas. If birds ignore the houses you’ve installed for them, make sure you have done everything correctly on the dimensions and location of the house. Then be patient. Decorative bird houses meant more for show than to provide a home for birds will rarely be utilized.
Include plants in your landscape that produce fruit birds will eat, such as native hollies, cherry laurel and hawthorns. However, putting out bird feeders is another option becoming increasingly popular as a means of attracting birds into the landscape. When setting up a feeding station, be sure you are willing to make a commitment to maintain a dependable food supply and to keep the health and safety of the birds in mind.
Water is not food, but it can make a feeding station more attractive. By providing water, which birds use for both drinking and bathing, you may encourage birds to stay in your yard. Several commercial watering trays are available, but you can use almost any shallow container so they can drink and bathe. Make sure you regularly add fresh water to the bird bath and clean it as needed.
It is true that birds are often included on lists of common garden pests. Birds eating newly planted seeds or pecking at or feeding on fruit or vegetables often frustrate gardeners. Despite these occasional problems, the presence of birds is almost universally welcome among gardeners.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture