Building a Bird-Friendly Backyard

A weathered green birdhouse / nestbox hangs from a tree branch against a green backdrop.

Building a Bird-Friendly Backyard

Summer picnics and dining under the stars are what we dream of all winter long. There’s nothing like spending a balmy evening in a candle-lit garden or a lazy afternoon with a novel under a leafy tree. Whether you have a backyard, a terrace, a deck or a balcony, there’s no end to the ways you can extend your living space by creating your own outdoor oasis. Outdoor spaces are not only an extension of your home, but are also an expression of your style and imagination.

One of the best ways to invite nature into your home is to create a bird-friendly area, like a little nature preserve outside your window. Craft a spot that invites birds to visit and nature can flourish even in the smallest space. With a few simple additions, you can enjoy wild birds up close while knowing you’re providing an environment that helps them thrive.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the possibilities, start small, simple and think native! Just like us, birds are happiest in places that feel like their natural environment.

Step 1: Hang A Feeder

Bird feeders are a perfect way to showcase your personal style while offering a source of food for the birds in your neighborhood. Whether you prefer a versatile easy-to-clean option or something handcrafted and artisanal, you have limitless options. Pick a feeder and a seed blend that will attract the types of birds you want to see (if you need help, we’ve got you covered with our Bird Feeding Essentials guide.)

Want inspiration? Check out our Wild Bird DIY board on Pinterest for crafts you can create from scratch, from a thrift shop, or even from the grocery store.

Step 2: Create Some Shelter

Now that you have your bird feeders in place, provide a spot for birds to congregate. Imagine you’re a bird with a buffet table spread out before you — you need somewhere to sit while you eat!

Birds love to swoop in to feeders from shrubs or small trees. Pick a few native shrubs to start with and create a small wildlife oasis around your feeders. Native plants are those that have historically existed in your area; they naturally attract birds who see them as familiar sources of food or shelter. Build out your oasis by choosing plants that flower in the summer to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as plants that will produce berries & seeds for songbirds to eat in the fall.

Even small spaces can be cozy niches for nature. Bright blue, green, and yellow planters hang on an urban balcony railing with colorful plants growing in them.Working with limited space? Container gardens are a great way to add color and texture on a porch or apartment balcony. Use pots of native plants to create color themes, and switch them around as they flower. How about an all-red flower garden with yellow containers for contrast? You can even coordinate the color of your feeders to match.

If you have a lot of grass and want to make it a more bird-friendly place, do it in stages. Add a small garden bed to one section and a birdbath to another. Have a bare wall against a garage or shed? Imagine it painted a bright color and covered in flowering vines. Birds love to congregate in vines because they make a perfect staging place for feeders. And don’t forget perching: sculptural elements offer a place for birds to rest in between meals.

Step 3: Offer Fresh Water

Birds love water year round. It’s critical not just for drinking, but also for preening their feathers to keep them clean and help them maintain body temperature during the cold. Group a handful of native plants around the base of a birdbath and you’ve created an instant wading pool for birds to play in. If your region experiences freezing temperatures during the winter, you might want to invest in a heated birdbath so that their source of water doesn’t ice over. In the summer, add an agitator to keep the water surface moving and help alert birds to the presence of fresh water.

Step 4: Nesting Places

Birdhouses are another way to show off your unique style and help wildlife at the same time. You can get infinitely crafty with simple nesting boxes, which not only look great but do double duty as shelter when it isn’t breeding season. Set up one as an accent, or hang a dozen on a fence or wall. Just make sure to dust them out in between seasons to make room for new nests.

If you want to be even more helpful, fill a small cage feeder with nesting materials like straw, yard debris, grass clippings, & natural fibers (cotton, wool, burlap & twine.) Birds will stop by to pick out just the right accessories to make that birdhouse into a home.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be! There are many resources available online, in garden centers and in book stores that provide ideas on how to design everything from a small bird-friendly corner to acres of yard. You can even involve your neighbors to build a whole bird-friendly neighborhood corridor! The more you learn, the more your ideas will develop and the more your yard evolves, the more it will feel like home – to both you and your birds. Remember that no matter how small your space, your contribution matters.

Have you built a bird oasis in your home? We’d love to hear what features you’ve included!