In Your Yard

Photo ©

Tip Top Yards

Yards matter to birds. We share our backyards with some pretty amazing birds, but we don’t always know much about their lives until they intersect with ours in some way (for instance, when a phoebe nests in the windowsill that you look out of during breakfast). For as long as humans have existed, they have inhabited a planet with birds; and now, more than ever, birds and people can learn to coexist in our own backyards.

There are many projects you can undertake that will benefit birds in a big way, but to get you started, we suggest 10 easy things you can do right now by walking outside. Think of this list as your jumping-off point for improving bird habitat.

  • Gather up all the fallen limbs and branches in your yard and toss into a pile instead of putting them at the curb.
  • Rake your leaves under your shrubs and trees for mulch rather than bagging them for collection.
  • Scatter a packet of sunflower seeds in a sunny space, water, and then remember not to mow them!
  • Relocate your bird feeders. Without changing your window, you might be able to reduce mortality by moving your feeders and birdbaths to new locations. Bird strikes are significantly more likely to be fatal when they take off far enough away from the window to be flying at top speed when they hit. When feeders are placed within 3 feet of window glass, or affixed to the window or frame, birds may still fly into it, but seldom with enough force to injure themselves.
  • Make and install a predator baffle for your nest box pole.
  • Skip the lawn chemicals. Spares money and time, too!
  • Bring your cat indoors for a short time. Gradually shorten the amount of “outside” time your cat gets until the cat is comfortable staying indoors. Provide toys and attention to keep the cat from getting bored.
  • Don’t assume that any baby bird you find needs your help. If it’s feathered and hopping around, it has already left the nest and is being fed by its parents. Don’t try to catch the bird and raise it yourself; simply keep your cat indoors for a few weeks and keep dogs on a leash. (If it’s naked and cannot walk or hop, try to find the nest and put it back; if you can’t return it to its nest, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator). Learn when and how to react to prevent harming a healthy chick.
  • Provide a source of fresh, clean water for birds during dry or hot weather. Any shallow dish near some shelter will do.
  • Clean your feeders to prevent mold and bacteria from spreading and making feeder birds sick.
  • Bluebird at Bath

    This female Eastern Bluebird takes a mealworm snack provided by the humans who share her habitat.

    Photo © reddirtpics

    Long Term Relationship

    When you’re ready for some long-term projects to keep your birds happy, there are three basic things to provide that all birds need from their habitats:

    • FOOD: Your yard can be landscaped to provide fruit, seeds, beneficial insects, and other small animals that birds feed upon. Read more about food…
    • WATER: Birds need water for drinking and bathing. You may also consider constructing a small pond that will support frogs, toads, and small fish to attract a wider variety of birds. Read more about water…
    • STRUCTURE: Whether it’s a safe place for sleeping, a protected haven from the elements, a hiding place to elude predators, or a secure nesting spot, providing shelter is an important way to make your property bird-friendly. Read more about structure…

    Take a look at your property from a bird’s perspective. Does it provide these things? If not, consider adding some or all of them. Browse our collection of habitat-specific articles to get ideas on improving your backyard for birds wherever you live.

    Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    Lush Backyard

    Plant diversity, both in species and height, makes this backyard attractive to both people and birds.

    Photo © Darwin Bell

    Getting down to details

    Proven landscaping tricks to bring in the birds.

    Front Yard Gardening

    Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology


    Look up your ecoregion by zip code:

    Photo © Cornell Lab of Ornithology