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Bird-Friendly Yard Checklist: Are You Ready for Spring?

March is almost here, which means meteorological spring is just around the corner! Soon, bird activity in your yard will ramp up. We asked Pam Torlina, our Southeast Stewardship Manager, about the easiest ways to make your yard more bird-friendly.

“All animals have basic habitat requirements: food, water, shelter and space, so making sure to incorporate these things in your backyard is key, no matter if your yard is big or small,” she said.

Here is your checklist for a bird-friendly yard. How ready are you for birds this spring?

  • Plant native berry-producing trees and shrubs. This time of year, the birds are loving the berries on American Beautyberry, American Holly, Eastern Red Cedar, and Flowering Dogwood, to name a few. In the summer and fall, birds love the fresh fruit of our native blueberries, Persimmon, Serviceberry and Blackberry.
  • Grow native plants to provide an insect buffet. Insects are highly specialized and many will only feed on their specific native host plants. In the spring, the larvae of butterflies and moths are key to birds’ diets while they are feeding their young. Your native plants will bring you more butterflies and more birds.
  • Also, leaving the deadheads of summer flowering plants through the winter is very beneficial – for instance, American Goldfinch love the seeds of Purple Coneflower and Black-eyed Susan!
  • Feel free to put up bird feeders. They can be a fun way to watch birds. But keep in mind that birdseed can’t substitute for natural food sources from native plants. Birds don’t feed birdseed to their young and many kinds of birds don’t come to feeders.
  • Make sure to provide clean water that is shallow enough for a bird to bathe in and allows access for drinking.
  • If feeding the birds in your yard, you want to be sure there is cover nearby, in case they need a quick escape, but not so close as to allow a predator to pounce on the bird as it feeds. This doesn’t apply to winged predators such as hawks, we can’t control their actions, and after all, if you’ve got a bird feeder out with seeds for songbirds, it also doubles as a hawk feeder!
  • Speaking of predators, keep cats indoors! Cats kill millions of wild birds each year in the U.S. alone. Here are some more tips on how to protect your backyard birds from cats.
  • You can also construct and maintain loose brush piles in openings of your yard, according to NC State University’s Cooperative Extension Service. Brush piles offer shelter for birds all year round, giving birds a quick place to hide. They also house a source of bugs to eat, are a potential nesting spot, offer a staging spot to land first before heading over to a nearby feeder, and they provide cover during heavy rain or snow.
  • Nest boxes with predator guards also provide a relatively safe spot for birds to raise their young. You don’t need a tree, a pole in the ground with the bird house and top and a metal skirt around the middle does fine.

Did pretty well on the checklist? Make your yard or neighborhood a certified wildlife habitat.

If you’re creating habitat where you live, you can register with the National Wildlife Federation to become a “Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.” Be sure to share your knowledge and encourage neighbors to provide habitat, too. Multiple connected yards with good resources are much more effective at sustaining wildlife than a single lot. If neighborhood residents are on board, you can register your neighborhood with the National Wildlife Federation.

Article and photos are by Pat Barcas, AmeriCorps Project Conserve Communications and Education Associate. Habitat at Home is a regular feature from Conserving Carolina, providing seasonal tips on how to provide habitat for wildlife where you live. See more columns. 

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