Bird gardening is a small corner of the landscaping world. There are bird lovers, bird watchers and bird gardeners. Although not necessarily for everyone, everyone can reap the joy of having at least some birds visit the garden.

Details Landscape Art designs and builds custom landscapes for homeowners in Sonoma and Napa Counties. Since 1991 we have met and built gardens for hundreds of clients, each with their own unique interests and tastes. There have been many who have requested bird friendly landscapes, and although we are far from bird experts, we have learned much about the benefits to both the homeowners and the birds, and how to include bird friendly elements in our designs.

The Benefits to the Birds:

Basically, bird gardening attracts birds by providing sources of food and water, and places to breed. Depending on the climate and the natural environment, different kinds of food can be made available – lawns may yield earthworms and other invertebrates, flowers may attract seed-eating species, wetlands can provide breeding areas, and trees and taller grasses and shrubs can provide hiding places from predators.

Benefits to the Gardener:

Obviously enjoying seeing the birds is a joy to behold. The sound of birds chirping early in the morning is a joy to wake up to. And the movement of birds dancing from limb to limb or from flower to flower makes a garden come alive. But in addition, bird gardening is a world of knowledge to be studied – it’s an enriching exercise to learn about these small flying creatures and what makes them tick.

Designing a Bird Friendly Garden:

Remember these four basic needs of birds – Food, water, nesting sites and shelter. Planning a garden design begins by evaluating what is already on the property. Are there existing flowering plants? Is there an existing lawn? Is there a pond or other available water? Where do existing birds hang out in your yard? Also evaluate what is next to your garden. Remember, birds don’t know about property lines! Adjacent property may greatly affect birds that will visit YOUR property.

Some of the principles of good garden design and plant selection are consistent with good bird gardening. For example, planting in masses or in groupings allow for cross-pollination, as well as strong visual impact. Mixing and varying heights of trees, plants and lawns in the garden provides good visual interest, and gives birds the ability to move and travel easily throughout the garden…they may like to feed on flowers for awhile and then retreat to a taller tree to rest.

We must admit that there are some principles of good bird garden design and habits that are NOT consistent with our style of gardening. We prefer clean, neat gardens that have a natural flavor. For example, it is suggested that letting dead trees stand provides a home for insects, which, in turn, attracts birds. Creating unsightly brush piles and compost heaps also attracts insects, which become food for the birds.

We will discuss trees, shrubs and groundcovers that attract birds in a future blog.