Create Nesting Areas for Backyard Birds

My Garden Life
August 19, 2020
Table of Contents
As a gardener, you’re particular about what you do with the green space around your home. You want a landscape plan that is pleasing to look at, offers some privacy and even allows you to grow some of your own food. Birds are no different. They have very specific needs and desires when it comes to the habitats in which they choose to nest.
Here are five tips for producing a backyard planting plan sure to attract birds and encourage them to make their homes nearby.

1. Go Native, Go Wild

For some, a wide expanse of lawn close cropped with a small display of tightly trimmed, non-native ornamental bushes and trees is the perfect setting for an elegant home. But that sort of formal yard layout is definitely not for the birds. Birds like to hide their nests away from predators and bad weather in the thick branches of trees, the wild bramble of natural hedgerows, and the nooks and crannies of fallen logs and forest undergrowth. Native bushes, trees and grasses arranged in a free flowing, natural style provide both an attractive landscape and a great nesting habitat for birds.
Here are a few of the many versatile and lovely native American plants that go well in this sort of design:
Native plants that attract birds; Milkweed, Virginia creeper, Oak tree, Gray dogwood
Flower: Milkweed
Tree: Oak

Shrub: Gray Dogwood

2. Food Sources for Wild Birds

If home is where the heart is, and the way to the heart is through the stomach…Another advantage, as far as your backyard birds are concerned, of landscaping with native plants is that these flora often produce the nectar, fruit and seeds that the birds and their babies need to survive. It’s no surprise that birds will build their nests as close as they can to their sources of food. Who doesn’t like to live within walking—or flapping—distance of the grocery store?
The native plants that follow are great sources of some birds’ favorite foods; nectar, fruit and seeds:
Nectar sources for birds; Bee balm, trumpet vine, American honeysuckle

Trumpet Vine

Fruiting trees that attract birds; Dogwood tree, winterberry, mulberry tree
Seed plants that attract birds; Sunflower, coneflower, pine tree

3. Birds Eat Bugs

Birds are omnivores, and bugs are a big part of their diet, even more so than fruits and seeds. 96% of what the parent birds feed their young is insects. So, if you are planting in hopes of attracting nesting birds, you need to include plants that appeal to and support a healthy bug population.
Plants that support healthy bug populations can include:
Trees that support insects also attract birds; Willow tree, Black gum tree, Wild cherry tree
Wild cherry (Prunus serotina)
Tip: To attract nesting birds in your backyard, avoid applying insecticides to your garden or lawn.

4. Get Down & Dirty

Blue tit feeding an insect to its chick in a tree nest

Birds like to secret their nests in holes in dying trees, the pockets in a debris mound or other natural hiding places. Don’t be in a hurry to clean up the deadfall that makes perfect nesting spots. Learn to embrace the natural beauty of a fallen tree or a picturesque pile of brush.

5. Keep Your Cat Indoors

Domestic cat stalking prey in a backyard garden area.

Don’t let the cat out of the bag (or the house). It is estimated that outdoor cats—both pets and the feral population—kill almost 4 billion birds a year in the U.S. Please don’t place bird-friendly plantings in a yard where the birds’ primary predator roams free.
Young robin in a birdbath

Bonus tip: Birds need fresh water for bathing and drinking near their nesting sites. We’ve got all the information you need to choose a perfect bird bath for your garden.


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