Garden Talk

Join In; Hands On

Garden Talk

Checklist for Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard

Re-create the multiple layers of plant growth found in natural areas.

Select plants to provide nutritional foods during different seasons.

Plant shrubs and small trees in same-species clumps for adequate pollination of fruits.

Provide at least one clump of conifers (evergreens).

Leave dead trees, standing or fallen, to provide nesting and foraging sites. Consider topping dead trees rather than removing the whole tree if safety is an issue.

Leave vines, or plant native additions.

Limit the size of your lawn for less mowing, less fertilizing, less watering, and less pollution.

Avoid invasive exotic (non-native) plants.

Supply a source of water – dripping or running water is a better attractant than still water.

Provide and monitor nest boxes of various sizes.

Leave some leaf litter on the ground.

Stop using pesticides in your yard.

Use only organic, slow release fertilizers, preferably your own compost, if needed.

Ten things we can all do to help migratory and resident birds:

1. Minimize or eliminate me use of pesticides. Buy organically grown products.

2. Buy shade-grown coffee. Research by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has shown mat shade-grown coffee plantations in Latin America provide excellent habitat for birds, whereas sun coffee plantations destroy bird habitat For more information and a list of companies selling certified, “bird-friendly” coffee, see Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center web site:

3. Maintain and or restore natural habitat on your property. Plant and maintain native trees, shrubs, and vines that provide year round food, water, and shelter for birds. Keep in mind that even though your backyard may not be big enough to serve as breeding habitat for many types of migratory birds, it can provide critical stopover habitat, that is, places for migrating birds to stop to rest and refuel. For more information, contact: National Wildlife Federation, Backyard Habitat Program Office, 8925 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22184; 703-790-4434; http^/

4. Reduce the risk of bird predation by keeping cats indoors, especially during migration and the breeding season (Contact the American Bird Conservancy’s “Cats Indoors” program for more information: 202-778-9666). Refrain from putting table scraps out for wildlife and dispose of household garbage responsibly so as to not attract predators (such as raccoons and crows) and sustain their numbers at abnormally high levels.

5. Invite neighboring landowners to join your backyard habitat effort to make for a greater cumulative effect Corridors of natural habitats are very important for migrating birds.

6. Become involved in local land-use planning to preserve and restore natural habitats in your community.

7. Plan or participate in International Migratory Bird Day, held each year on or around the second Saturday in May. Hundreds of events take place throughout me United States with the goal of raising public awareness of migratory birds and the conservation issues mat affect them.

8. If birds are colliding with your windows or glass doors, break up the reflection using decals or non-reflective coating, or by putting blinds, curtains, or a screen in front of the glass.

9. Support conservation organizations dedicated to protecting birds and their habitats.

10. Write letters to local, state, and federal officials urging them to support legislation that will protect birds and their habitats.

Each of these topics and more are explored in Bring Back the Birds: What You Can Do to Save Threatened Species which is available locally at the National Zoo’s Bookstore or from the publisher, Stackpole Books (1-800-732-3669).