Bird-friendly Yards

Photos: Native Plants, Gardeners © Kim Brand; Cedar Waxwing © Phil Dickinson.

The Bird-friendly Yard

The following characteristics all contribute to a yard that supports birds, butterflies and other wildlife.  Implementing any of these features will improve your backyard habitat, making it safer and more inviting to both migrating birds and year-round residents.  

  • Most of the trees and other plants are native species.
  • Invasive non-native plant species are removed (especially those with rank 1 or 2 on this list:
  • Small percentage of property is lawn (mowed non-native grass).
  • Plentiful food for birds is available (insects, fruits, berries, nuts, native grass seeds, supplemental feeders with suet, seeds, hummingbird nectar).
  • Fresh water is available (lakes, ponds, streams, bird baths).
  • Safe nesting sites are available (mature native trees, dense shrubs and thickets, dead or dying trees/snags, nesting boxes).
  • Shelter from bad weather and cover to escape predators is available (dense shrubs/thickets, brush piles, wooded areas, ground cover, roosting boxes).
  • Host plants for caterpillars are included in landscape.
  • Broad-scale use of pesticides, herbicides, and commercial fertilizers is avoided.  Carefully chosen products are applied directly on specific problems rather than treating large areas.
  • Messy areas with leaf litter are available for sparrows, towhees, cardinals, etc. to scratch for insects.
  • Some dead and dying trees are left standing (if not a safety hazard).
  • Cats are kept indoors.
  • Measures are taken to prevent window strikes.

Doing several of these things will create a yard that is beautiful and inviting to birds, other wildlife, and people who care about nature! 

Native Trees and Shrubs. We have compiled a list of Suggested Native trees and Shrubs for bird-friendly yards in our area.

Many resources for helping create a bird-friendly yard can be found on the Internet.  Here are a few of our favorites.

Audubon at Home. Need we say more?

Yard Map.   Start visualizing your bird-friendly yard now, online, beginning with a satellite image of your yard and easy-to-use mapping tools.  Get instant feedback on how to attract more wildlife.  A free citizen science program from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.  “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Planet.”  A blog with very talented and inspiring contributors including Doug Tallamy, Pat Sutton, and Catherine Zimmerman.  Wide range of topics.  Subscribe to keep up with their latest posts.

North Carolina Native Plant Society.  Learn about the native plants of our area.

Going Native.  Urban Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants.  From NC State University.  Includes an interactive database of native plants that are attractive to wildlife.

Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants.  From North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and North Carolina Cooperative Extension.  Great information including plants lists and sources.

Butterflies in Your Backyard.  Lots of information including lists of NC native host plants.  Also from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

Lawn Treatments That Are Safe for Birds.  Includes lists of both harmful and safe chemicals, tips for bird-friendly gardening, and links to even more information on pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers.

Brush Piles.  Just Google “birds brush piles” and you will be amazed at the number of hits.  The first page of results are all about the benefits of brush piles and how to create a good one.  There is even a scientific study with statistical results about the characteristics of brushpiles that result in the most use by birds!

You Can Save Birds from Flying into Windows!  Information from the American Bird Conservancy.

Cats Indoors.  Better and safer for both kitty and birds.  Information from the American Bird Conservancy.

Creating a Wildlife Habitat in Your Backyard. Information on making a home for birds, butterflies, and other creatures in your backyard!

For more information or to contribute ideas for creating bird-friendly yards, contact Shelley Rutkin.