Feet up, relaxed, sitting outdoors in a beautifully landscaped yard. You may be reading or enjoying your favorite beverage as you listen to the songbirds. This outdoor oasis is no mirage. With a little planning and willingness to get your hands in the dirt, your backyard can draw in a wide variety of birds. To encounter birds in your backyard on a regular basis, plan to provide food, water, shelter, and space.
Plant a variety of trees, shrubs, and perennials for a bird buffet. Plants nourish birds with nuts, seeds, berries, and fruit. In spring, migrant birds find energy from insects attracted to nectar, pollen, and emerging leaves.
A vine for vertical interest that offers blue-black fruit is Virginia Creeper/Parthenocissus. Finches are drawn to Rudbeckia, Coneflower/Echinacea and Yarrow. Hummingbirds flit about fragrant Monarda and Milkweed/Asclepias. Maples/Acer and Redbuds/Cercis Canadensis produce seeds, as do the cones on Pine and Spruce trees. Shrubs that produce nuts and berries include the Serviceberry/Amelanchier and the American Filbert/Corylus Americana.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has asked residents to not put out bird feeders and birdbaths until after May 31. The greatest concern is for seed/grain feeders and birdbaths where waterfowl and songbirds may interact. It is unlikely nectar and hummingbird feeders will spread disease. Wild birds have ample natural sources of water and food during spring when you add plants for that purpose to your landscape.
Birds will find water naturally when it is dry. Birdbaths can be a focal point of a perennial garden, adding structure and contrast to the ever-changing bed of color. Once birds know birdbaths are nearby, they will visit frequently. Make sure your water source is maintained to not attract mosquitoes. Clean weekly with a solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, rinsing thoroughly before replacing with fresh water.
A nice canopy tree provides shelter and food for the birds. A native Red Oak/Quercus rubra has a fast growth rate and produces great fall color. Other native trees to consider in your landscape design for birdwatching are the Dogwood/Cornus, Tuliptree/Liriodendron, Birch/Betula, Crabapple/Malus. Take stock of what you already have and add something different to provide additional benefits. Holly/Ilex is a dense evergreen shrub that produces berries at a different time than other plants. Blackhaw Viburnums have dense branching for shelter, flower in spring, and produce berries. Shrub and tree form Evergreens are excellent winter shelter.
How we design our outdoor living space affects the ecosystem. Did you know cardinals moved north due to people landscaping their yards? Human interest has increased their range. Coopers Hawks have also started liking our backyards. An education of the whole food chain can be viewed from the comfort of home. Offer both evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs along with perennial ornamental grasses and a variety of all season blooms to best entice birds and other pollinators to your natural habitat.