January 7, 2016

Landscaping for Birds

Plant Natives

There is nothing more critical for attracting birds to your yard or back forty then providing native habitat. If you are one of the tens of millions of birders and non-birders that have feeders in your yard and want to see more birds, then do what most birders do, make your yard bird friendly. There is a saying in the birding world that “if the habitat is right the birds will be there”. That is as true in your backyard as it is anyplace else. You don’t need to have a huge yard to provide good habitat for birds because the quality of habitat is just as important as the quantity. Quality, bird-friendly habitat can be created by replacing invasive, non-native plants with native flowers, shrubs and trees.

Get Rid of Invasives

Invasive species may be easy to care for and look quite nice, but unfortunately they don’t provide the food and habitat needed by most birds in Missouri. A good first step is to identify and begin to remove invasive non-native plants. Remove invasive non-native trees and shrubs like Bradford/Callery pear, Bush Honeysuckles, and Multifora Rose, and invasive grasses like Tall Fescue, Reed Canary, Johnson Grass, and others. Simply put, the more bird-friendly your yard is, the more species of birds you will attract.


The Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Grow Native! Program  are excellent places to start for a better understanding of how to care for native plants and how to deal with pesky invasives. Remember, even native plants can sometimes be a nuisance in the right context, so it’s important to consult with the experts before taking the wrong plants home from the nursery. By helping you with plant identification, and by providing tips on planting and caring for native bird-friendly trees and plants, these programs will help you pick out the best plants for your situation.

Final Thoughts

Landscaping for birds is as much about providing vegetation that provides food for birds as it is about providing vegetation that is essential to attracting the insects, spiders, and other food sources that certain birds rely upon. If you broadcast insecticides over your yard, don’t expect to see birds that have an insect-heavy diet. Native plants, on the other hand, require little to no irrigation and rarely require fertilizers and pesticides.

Remember that birds don’t read maps or check dates and times so it is never a guarantee that your yard will be filled with birds every day of the year. In addition, the results of habitat improvement might take a few seasons to fully manifest. Be patient and continue restoring your habitat, and eventually you will improve your chances of attracting more birds.

Begin now and make your yard more bird friendly!