Making Your Yard Bird Friendly

Gardener’s Corner | Questions and Answers with Local Experts 

By Dan Songster, 2014 March

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives. Our question for this Newsletter is “How have you made your yard more bird friendly?”

Bob Allen – “I plant Salvias. When they go to seed, the birds arrive in flocks to eat the seeds. The bushtits and goldfinches especially like them.”

Ron Vanderhoff – “Two bluebird boxes, a wren house and two water pans do it, in additions to an array of native plants. Ribes and Penstemons for the hummers.”

Orchid Black – “Water features have been the key to increasing birds on any site, especially ones with drippers or recirculating pumps.”

Curt Craft – “Hands down the best feature in my garden has been the bird bath. All kinds of birds use it and often multiple species a the same time. Keeping it fresh and clean is a priority.”

Christianne Shannon – “Three points play a crucial role in my garden: bushes tangled, tall, and full, leaf litter allowed to accumulate, seed is brought out daily, and water drips for a few hours each day in three bird baths. Seed feeders and baths are placed close enough to the bushes in which the birds can retreat when a predator is appearing. Leaf litter harbors insects and spiders for the birds that like to scratch for them. All this works very well for me  there are lots of birds.”

Trude Hurd – “I have made my yard more bird friendly by listening to what the birds want!

  1. Most important is clean, shallow, moving water. I have two shallow bird baths and one rock fountain that are constantly used for drinking and bathing.
  2. Next is a variety of California natives and fruit trees, (including leaving a dying peach tree that the Nuttall’s Woodpeckers love.)
  3. I left an area of bare dirt to wet in spring when the Black Phoebe needs mud for her nest under the neighbor’s eaves.
  4. I don’t use any poisons that harm wildlife, so there is an abundance of birds, butterflies, native bees, 2 lizard species, and even slender salamanders.

It’s the birds’ yard and they are letting me enjoy it!”

Celia Kutcher – “By planting natives that hummingbirds love: Galvesia speciosa & Epilobium ‘Catalina’especially. And all kinds of natives, which attract all kinds of insects, that attract all kinds of insect eating birds.”

Charles Wright – “Our tiny condo yard is a haven for birds. I initially fed with black sunflower and niger seed but quit; what a mess it attracted rats, raccoons, opossums. Now I use plant cover and water. The plants give small birds a place for preening after a bath and a place to land when coming into the yard. I have also placed perches around the yard, sticks wired to metal stakes in the ground near the raised bird bath. This bird bath is on a timer with the sprinkler system and floods and refreshes the water daily. It also has a small fountain pump which the hummers especially like. I follow Bob Allen’s advice and I do not have a tidy yard; I purposely leave leaf litter and twigs on the ground where the California towhee and white crowned sparrows like to forage.”

Jennifer Beatty –

Food, water and shelter have attracted birds to my yard, and their numbers have increased in the nearly five years since I began planting natives.

“The coastal sage scrub shrubs have grown and provide important shelter. The garden is full birdsong as the birds search for seeds and bugs to eat. The hummingbirds also find nectar in some native flowers. It is enjoyable to watch several different types of birds fly to the fountain to splash, drink, and bathe. There are quite a few types of plants in the garden so that there will be something to eat (and something flowering) year-round. Native birds need bugs for protein, especially during egg-laying season, and a native garden helps keep them well fed. Bluebird houses are placed again this year in hopes of new babies. Other native birds make their nests around the property, and I’m making sure not to trim trees and shrubs where birds may soon be nesting. Spring is on its way

Dan Songster -“I know having plants that provide a food source for the birds is important, as well as having water somewhere in the garden. But sometimes overlooked is the dense structure of plants where many species of birds can shelter and feel comfortable These can be things like lemonadeberry, hollyleaf cherry, California sagebrush, Nevin’s barberry, coffeeberry, toyon, and many of the sages and buckwheats. It’s a bonus that many of these natives are also lovely and easy to grow and provide seeds for the birds.”


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