After this long and rather harsh winter, many are itching to get back out into their gardens. Gardening is a relaxing hobby and gardens are a big attractant of birds to a yard. Native plants are the best attractors of birds because they provide natural food, shelter, and a nest site. Doing a little pre-spring planning as to what plants to add to your garden is the best way to figure out what your garden is missing to attract more birds.
Food is a key element of attracting more birds to your yard. Sure bird feeders are great, but birds will almost always take natural foods first and there are of course birds that don’t consume seed. Trees and shrubs that produce fruit or berries are a great place to start. Their spring blossoms add beautiful colour to any yard and robins, waxwings and thrushes will quickly arrive once theses blossoms turn into fruit. Fruit bearing trees also attract insects which will bring in warblers and flycatchers, something your favourite seed won’t do. My personal recommendation for a native fruit shrub is the Red Osier Dogwood. Not only are the berries consumed by over 100 species of birds in Ontario, it’s bright red branches will add an element of colour to your garden year round.
Plants that provide shelter come in all shapes and sizes. My favourite are evergreens because they can be used 12 months of the year by birds to keep hidden from cats, raptors or other predators. Their thick foliage is also a great wind break and an escape from winter squalls. Again they add colour year round which appeals to many gardeners. Deciduous trees and shrubs are great cover too because their dense branches provide a thicket which attracts several bird species. Tall grasses and ground covers are essential because they provide shelter for birds like mourning doves and fledgling birds that spend a lot of time on the ground.
Native wildflowers are a great addition to any garden. The flowers will attract several species of insect looking to feed on their nectar, resulting in several bird species that feed on insects. Jewel weed is a great wildflower if you are looking to attract hummingbirds to your yard. Many wildflowers turn to seed after blooming which is a popular food of finches and other songbirds.
The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority provides a great list of recommended native species that can be found here. Do a little research and planning as to what your garden is missing and what plants will do best in your conditions. Many of these recommended plants are readily available at local garden centers and can be purchased rather inexpensively. Not only will you have a beautiful garden that’s the envy of all your neighbours; you’ll be creating a natural habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife.