Steps to Creating Your Birdscape

Nov 21, 2017 by

Steps to Creating Your Birdscape

Step One: Take Inventory
Walk around your garden and make a map. Draw in the plants you already have, the trees, shrubs, and perennials. Draw in your lawn, seating areas, barbeque, compost pile, etc. Add driveways, paved areas, garden sheds, and patios.

Don’t worry, this is not an art contest, just a simple sketch will do. An easy way to do this is to take a series of photos of your garden through the seasons. Use a Sharpie to identify the plants in each picture. Mark the shady areas and the sunny spots. Where does the water collect when it rains?

Step Two: Remove Invasive Plants
Before we talk about best plants for Birdscaping it is very important to know what NOT to plant. Invasive plants are destroying habitat across the country. Drive through Cape May, NJ and see the Porcelain Berry covering the trees and shrubs. In the Mid-Atlantic States we’ve got Paulownia, Bradford pear, and Norway Maples outcompeting native plants in woodland ecosystems. In the south kudzu is spreading like a plague. In the Southwest Tamarisk is literally sucking all of the water out of riparian streams.

Multiflora rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, Oriental Bittersweet, Purple Loosestrife, and many more are wreaking havoc across the country. The cost of trying to control these invasives is staggering. Every year we taxpayers pay 138 billion dollars in a seemingly futile attempt to keep these species from destroying more habitat, only to have to pay it again the following year.

Do not purchase or plant anything that is invasive in your area. Do a search on the phrase “invasive plants + your state” and print that list out. Carry it with you every time you shop for your garden. Do not purchase anything on that list.

If you have any of these invasive plants in your garden, remove them now. You’ll gain valuable space to add more native plants, and you will be rewarded by no longer spending so much time and energy keeping these invasives under control.

Step Three: Make a Plan
Putting plants in the right place will save you money and time. From your map you can see what conditions are present in each area of your garden. You’ve already identified the sunny and shady spots. You know where the wet spots are and the dry spots, and now you’re going to choose plants that are right for these conditions. A little homework now will save you much frustration later.

It’s so easy to go to the nursery and be seduced by a pretty plant, which we spontaneously buy without thinking about how big it will get or how much sun it needs. Too often we act impulsively, only to find out that we’ve put that plant in the wrong place.

Where can you reduce your lawn? Lawns provide very little in the way of habitat for birds. Mowing and blowing use enormous amounts of fossil fuels and create air pollution (not to mention noise pollution). They require the use of toxic chemicals and excess amounts of water. You can reduce the negative impacts of this by making your lawn smaller, or even eliminating it entirely.

Step Four: Plant Locally Native Plants
Native plants are the best choice in your habitat garden for birds. Why? Because native plants and insects have co-evolved together over thousands of years, and most birds, no matter what they eat as adults need insects to feed their young.

Birds have adapted to eat the fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts of locally native plants. While some exotic plants do have tempting fruits for the birds, often they are too large for birds to swallow. And some invasive plants are spreading out of control because the birds do eat the berries and then deposit those seeds far and wide as they fly around.

Your best bet for creating habitats that support the largest number of birds is to plant a wide variety of native plants that are appropriate to your region. The more natives you’ve got in your garden, the more birds you will see. It really is that simple.

To begin choosing the best plants for your bird-friendly habitat garden you’re going to need to use your search engine again. Search for “” click the “plants” tab, and enter your state. You will see a list that includes trees, shrubs, sun perennials, and shade perennials.

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