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Create 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 easy steps for attracting birds to your garden

Before you start to create your bird garden, consult the fact sheet Basic principles of organic gardening. Also make sure to comply with the bylaws of your municipality.

Step 1 - Preparing an inviting habitat

Perches to observe the surroundings

Plant vegetation in tiers, creating 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’s important that you don’t promote the presence of introduced species such as starlings and house sparrows, which will scare away native birds.

For more information:

Step 2 - Creating abundance

A source of water

Ensure access to a source of clean, shallow water. Don’t forget to change the water in bird baths daily in summer and to clean them regularly. It’s possible to find devices to prevent your water source from freezing in winter at specialty stores and online.

Varied food

Plant a variety of 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 bird species. It’s best not to have them in your garden.

Step 3 - Establish a safe area

The danger posed by windows

Collisions with windows are the leading cause of death for birds. Consider installing exterior screens, stickers or light curtains to signal the presence of your windows. Furthermore, make sure to install feeders, suet cages and other food sources at least3 metresfrom windows (birds do not have enough flying momentum to injure themselves), or more than6 metresfrom the house (giving birds enough distance to avoid the obstacle).

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.

Step 4 - Maintain your garden in an ecologically friendly way

Avoid cleaning up planting beds in the fall

In the great majority of cases, pruning perennials in the fall is not only unnecessary but undesirable as well. In leaving the dead leaves and dried-out stems where they are, you provide shelter to many useful organisms and enable birds to enjoy the seeds and fruit that survive on plants at the end of the season. You also ensure better wintertime protection for your plants. Finally, in leaving Mother Nature alone, you allow all that organic matter to enrich the soil as it decomposes.

For more information:

Limiting light pollution

Light pollution disrupts the behaviour of birds, notably by disorienting them during migration, which increases the risk of collision.

Turn off your garden lights at night or install a timer or motion detector to have lights on only when truly necessary. Do not direct lights towards the sky.

Protecting biodiversity

Your garden will welcome birds, but also insects. Learn to accept their presence, to know them and even to appreciate them. They constitute an essential element in biodiversity. A number of them contribute to the ecological control of pests. Moreover, insects are on the menu of some of our winged friends!

Should a problem with insect pests, disease or weeds require intervention on your part, apply cultural, physical or mechanical control methods. Use low-impact pesticides only as a last resort.

For more information:

Step 5 - 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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