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Get it Growing: Birdscaping – in your backyard!
Birdscaping is all about creating the right environment to support and invite birds to share your space through landscaping.
Birds tend to live where their basic needs can be met. Even on a small city lot, a bird sanctuary can be created to sustain a variety of birds by providing sources of food, shelter, space and water.
A complete bird habitat will include a variety of food sources that provide berries, fruits, insects, nuts and seeds year-round; cover, shade and shelter areas to hide from the elements and camouflage their homes; space to court and mate, then raise offspring; and water to drink and bathe in.
When creating and maintaining landscaping, consider using native plants. A greater number and variety of birds occur in areas of native vegetation. Native plants have co-evolved with native birds and are more likely to provide just the right benefit at just the right time. Native plantings do not require fertilizers, pesticides, watering or a lot of maintenance, and however small, can help revive ecosystems. With more diversity and layers of indigenous plants, a micro-climate has a better chance of harboring birdlife.
Select plants that will provide a variety of food sources at different times of the year. In the spring and summer, fruits, nuts and seeds are gathered from shrubs, trees and wildflowers to feed the rapidly growing young. Also consider plants that will offer different kinds of berries and seeds through fall and wintertime to a variety of birds. See the sidebar for ideas of plants that are considered native in our area to provide for the basic needs of birds all year.
Providing shelter can be as simple as having a towering conifer in which to build a nest and also may harbor cones of seeds. Dead or fallen trees can provide cavities for shelter, a place to perch or gather insects. Brush piles can become a place to scrounge for nesting materials, shelter from the wind and hunt for hiding insects.
Fresh water for drinking and bathing such as a bird bath, pond or even a mud puddle is a must-have to round out a complete bird habitat. Some birds require a periodic dirt bath in summer to repel mites. Providing a dry sunny place with loose and dusty dirt to flap around in is just the thing they need.
Backyard bird friends are indicators of a healthy environment. By placing even a few native plants outdoors, whether you live in a rural, urban or suburban setting, can help sustain a threatened bird while enjoying its presence in your birdscape.
Native Plants for birdscaping
Fruit trees: bitter cherry, Indian plum, mountain ash
Seed and nut trees: ashes, birches, Garry oaks, maples, Pacific and Western flowering dogwoods
Shelter trees: Douglas-fir, hemlock, Western red cedar, willows
Early summer berry shrubs: chokecherry, salmonberry, serviceberries
Mid-summer berry shrubs: blueberries, evergreen huckleberry, Oregon grape, red flowering currant, red huckleberry, salal
Fall berry shrubs: elderberries, red-osier dogwood
Winter berry shrubs: baldhip rose, Kinnikinnik, Nootka rose
Native wildflowers for birds: asters, coastal strawberry, goldenrods
Native wildflowers for hummingbirds: columbine, fireweed, lupine, phlox, Western trumpet honeysuckle
Michele Mangiantini is a Washington State University-certified, Clallam County Master Gardener.