As many of us dust off and install our feeders for the winter, it’s worth considering what more we can do in our landscaping for our feathered friends. Birds are in trouble and need our help. In the past 400 years we have lost 9 species in North America – today nearly half of our bird species in North America are considered threatened (that’s 314 species!). So what can we do to support them in our own yards?
- Plant Native Plants – Native plants serve as food sources for our insect population (especially slow-moving, nutritionally dense caterpillars) and in turn support our birds. All birds depend on insects to feed their young – even hummingbirds! That hummingbird feeder is essential for busy adults, but does nothing to build the bones and muscle of growing baby birds. An oak tree supports 518 different species of butterfly and moth caterpillars; violets support 27 species – in contrast, hostas, daylilies and monkey grass support 0.
- Keep (or plant) trees – Yes, this time of year they’re a pain (unless, of course, you’ve called Quiet Village to take care of them for you!). A flowering dogwood, our Missouri state tree, provides nectar for pollinators, berries for birds, food for caterpillars, and good nesting sites.
- Wait to do your clean-up until the spring – For tidiness’ sake and good neighbor relations, clean up your front yard now. But leave your back beds until spring. Many of your perennials, such as coneflowers and asters, provide seeds for the birds over winter. And the leaf litter in your beds is an important over-wintering site for many of our caterpillars.
- Offer free water – Bird baths or low volume pondless waterfalls (see our previous post) our great additions to your yard. Water is especially important over the winter, our driest season of the year.
- Provide winter cover – Evergreens are the best option, but even dense shrubs help our birds ride out the cold of winter and protect them from predators. Our only native evergreen in the St. Louis area, the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), will provide both cover and a food source with their gin berries.
- Save trees that contain holes for nesting – When safety allows, keep your dead trees that provide nesting sites for our cavity-nesting birds such as owls, woodpeckers and our feeder favorites – chickadees.
Backyard bird feeding is a great first step but considering one or more of these items to create a true habitat in your yard. You’ll be amazed with the new birds you will start to see and will probably start noticing the array of other creatures that start calling your yard home.
For more information on what more you can do for the birds, contact the St. Louis chapter of the Audubon Society and ask about their Bring Conservation Home Program .
Rebecca Eisele, one of our landscape designers, has a passion for birds and would love to help you get started.