Resolutions for 2017 - Habitat for Birds

by - January 02, 2017

One of my favorite winter pastimes is backyard bird watching. We typically keep a steady supply of seed in the feeders, and occasionally put out a block of suet. Last week my youngest son and I made a fresh batch of peanut butter pine cone feeders, which the chickadees especially love.




While I love putting out food for the birds, it doesn't make me as giddy as seeing a bird land in a newly planted tree for the first time. I know it's a little silly because birds will basically land on anything (and poop on anything). I also know that these same birds I'm attracting in the winter will stick around for my plums and peaches to ripen in the summer. But I feel for the birds. Their habitats are rapidly converted to housing developments with homogeneous landscapes.

I came across a book "Worldwide urbanization and its effects on birds", which found the following to have a significant impact on bird declines:

  • decreased habitat availability 
  • reduced patch size
  • increased edge
  • increased non-native vegetation
  • decreased vegetative complexity 
  • increased nest predation

As habitats become more fragmented (continuous areas are broken down into smaller, interrupted areas), this affects the birds. While there are many bird species that nest in buildings such as the hawks in downtown Raleigh, the ground-dwelling birds have a more difficult time. So this brings me to a third resolution for 2017: increase the bird habitat potential of our yard. One way we will be doing this is to install bluebird boxes. The NC State Employees Credit Union sells houses built by Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group them for $10. We had to retire an old box this year, so I'm excited to finally get one from my nearby SECU. They have a kid-friendly website about the bluebird house program. The North Carolina Tree Farm Program (NCTFP) is also partnering with the program.

Another way to improve bird habitat is to include more native plant species that are a source of food and protection for the birds. There are several species I'd like to add: 
American Beauty-Berry, American Witch-Hazel, Black Raspberry, Common Winterberry, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Little False Bluestem, and Sassafras. I can't do all of these right away, but I have ordered a few things to try and grow in the spring.

Some of the existing natives on our 1/3 acre follow. The list is generated by the Audubon Society Native Plants Database, which focuses on plants beneficial and attractive to birds that are relatively easy to find at local nurseries, so it is not an exhaustive list of native plants in our yard.

Plant nameScientific NameMay attract
Highbush BlueberryVaccinium corymbosumCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesOriolesThrushesWood Warblers
Yellow JessamineGelsemium sempervirensCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesWood Warblers
American PokeweedPhytolacca americanaCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysFinchesMockingbirds & ThrashersOriolesSparrowsThrushes
Black-Eyed-SusanRudbeckia hirtaCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesWood Warblers
Butterfly MilkweedAsclepias tuberosaCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysFinchesHummingbirdsMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesSparrowsWood Warblers
Dense GayfeatherLiatris spicataCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceHummingbirdsMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesWood Warblers
CrossvineBignonia capreolataHummingbirds
Flowering DogwoodCornus floridaCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesOriolesThrushesWood WarblersWoodpeckers
Red MulberryMorus rubraCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesOriolesThrushesWood WarblersWoodpeckers
Northern White OakQuercus albaCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysFinchesMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesSparrowsWood WarblersWoodpeckers
Sweet-GumLiquidambar styracifluaCardinals & GrosbeaksChickadees & TitmiceCrows & JaysFinchesMockingbirds & ThrashersNuthatchesSparrowsWood WarblersWoodpeckers



I will be updating on the bird boxes! Our last bluebird box was inhabited by chickadees and then house wrens. I'd love to see some bluebirds in our yard. I've seen several in the trees just around the corner, so I know they aren't too far to find us.


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