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Creating your bird garden

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Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) - male
Photo: Chantal Dupras

Long live spring! The weather gets warmer, buds are bursting and the first flowers appear.

This is the time to be out gardening and welcome back migratory birds.

Year after year, many bird species see their habitats becoming increasingly limited. How about helping them by inviting them into your garden and protecting them while enjoying their presence?

Gardening and bird watching: a wonderful way to help beautify our living space and that of our feathered friends.

Four steps for attracting birds to your garden

Before you start to create your bird garden, we recommend reading our fact sheet on organic gardening entitled Basic principles of organic gardening.

Step 1 - Preparing an inviting habitat

Perches to observe the surroundings

Plant vegetation in tiers, creating at least three levels, if possible. Birds will land in larger trees, approach from shrubs and explore in the undergrowth. When a tree dies, remove only the dangerous parts, leaving the rest to serve as a perch.

Effective shelters

Trees and shrubs provide birds with protection from weather conditions and predators. Opt for plants that form wide hedges and clumps, providing sufficient cover for their nests.

Suitable plants

Choose plant species from here – native flora attracts native wildlife. It is important that you don’t encourage the proliferation of non-native species, such as starlings and house sparrows, which will scare away native birds.

Step 2 - Creating abundance

Water throughout the year

Ensure access to a source of clean, shallow water in summer and winter. During the cold season, you need to ensure that water remains accessible. Devices to prevent your water source from freezing are available from specialty stores and online.

Food sources

Plant a variety of native plant species that produce fruits and seeds. Feeders and suet cages also help foster bird biodiversity. To keep squirrels and non-native birds away, choose feeders that are inverted, weight-activated or those with short perches. Allow leaf litter to accumulate at tree bases to support an insect community that will provide food for the birds.

You can find these feeders in specialty stores and online.

Birdhouses

Very few species use birdhouses. Most birds prefer to build their own nest with their own choice of materials. Birdhouses can also boost non-native species. It is best not to have them in your garden.

Step 3 - Establish a safe area

Beware of cats!

Predation by domestic cats is the second leading cause of death for birds in North America. If possible, keep these skilled hunters out of your garden. If your cat has access, attach a bell to his collar. The ringing will alert the birds of the predator’s arrival, making hunting a little more difficult.

The danger posed by windows

Collisions with windows is the leading cause of death for birds. Consider installing exterior screens or stickers marking your windows to signal their presence. Furthermore, make sure to install feeders, suet cages and other food sources at least 3 metres from windows (birds do not have enough flying momentum to injure themselves), or more than 6 metres from the house (giving birds enough distance to avoid the obstacle).

Step 4 - Enjoy the benefits of your garden

A concrete action to preserve biodiversity

Visit your garden often to see how the plants grow and change and get to know its various inhabitants. Avoid touching nests and disturbing any chicks that might be there. Instead, use binoculars to observe them from a distance.

A show in your garden

A bird garden is an ideal place for curious observers and fans of biodiversity. You’ll see your garden gradually come to life thanks to the comings and goings of your new feathered neighbours.

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