A recent publication in Science highlights the loss of roughly 3 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970. These results signify an urgent need to protect and support our local populations wherever we can. Luckily, turning your yard into high-end bird real estate isn’t that hard.
Regardless of the species, birds tend to have a couple key things in mind when they are looking for a place to call home, namely, food, water, and shelter. Integrating features to meet their needs not only helps local populations, but will also benefit Phillippi Creek.
Similar to what you might find in a natural landscape, birds prefer different kinds of vegetation at different levels. A mix of open space, shorter shrubs, and trees gives birds the protection they’re looking for. A variety of plants can also support more of their food sources (i.e. grubs, berries, seeds, etc.). A well diversified plant community provides water filtration and storage during rainstorms to help reduce the amount of dirty water that can run off your yard and eventually into Phillippi Creek.
Photo Credit: Mounts Botanical Garden
Dying Tree or a Penthouse for Three?
Almost 40 species of birds in Florida nest in standing dead trees. They can hide, find food, and raise young in these habitats. If a dying tree is not a hazard to your home, think about leaving it in place or cutting it down to about 10ft in height so wildlife can still use it. If there is woody debris in your yard, leave that too! Many species of fish in Phillippi Creek also enjoy “woody debris” overhanging the creek. Young fish can hide under the branches and it cools the water temperature.
Photo Credit: Florida International University
Care for a Drink?
Birds, like all living things, need water to survive. Creating a place for water to collect after a rain or installing a permanent bird bath can help bring more winged guests to your humble abode. Rain gardens and bioswales are great natural solutions that also clean and store rainwater.
Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Extension Program
Native is the Name of the Game
Birds that are home to Southwest Florida prefer the plants they know and evolved with. Planting Florida native plants, trees, and shrubs, will provide the best food and shelter for our native birds. American beautyberry, red mulberry, and holly are great native plants that provide food for birds. If you’re looking to attract hummingbirds, try plants that make nectar, like firebush. Besides being great for birds, native plants are easy to take care of. They’re used to Florida’s extreme weather and don’t require extra water or fertilizer maintenance.
American Beautyberry Mulberry Firebush Credit: FL Native Plant Society Credit: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Credit: Roger L. Hammer
Curb the Chemicals
Birds eat bugs, berries, and many things that fall on the ground. If you’re using heavy pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides, you may kill off the food they need or harm them directly. These chemicals can also drain with the rain into local waterways, causing algal blooms and potentially harming other plants and animals.
Photo Credit: Ryan Ballogg, Bradenton Herald
Birds are definitely scaredy-cats when it comes to dealing with our feline pets. If you have an outdoor cat, you probably won’t have much luck in attracting birds to your backyard. In fact, your cat could be significantly damaging native bird populations.
“Predation by domestic cats is the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds
in the United States and Canada.” – American Bird Conservancy
Photo Credit: Zanna Holstova/Shutterstock
Create Corridors, not Cul-de-sacs
Getting you neighbors or HOA on board with expanding bird-friendly features throughout your neighborhood can help connect birds to other safe places. These continuous wildlife corridors help them travel, feed their young, and sing their songs.