Tips to Create a Bird-Friendly Garden

By Lauren Pharr | June 3, 2021

There are many ways to experience the beauty nature has to offer. One of those ways is incorporating a bird-friendly garden right in our backyards.

In this post, I offer 6 tips on how you can design a bird-friendly garden right in your own backyard, which include planting native plants, providing a good water source, and incorporating different kinds of shelter.

Not only will your bird-friendly garden be attracting all kinds of bird species, but it will also be attracting other kinds of gorgeous wildlife for you to enjoy and cherish for a long time!

Be Sure to Have a Water Source

Birds have no difficulties finding water, but there is no harm in providing them with a good water source as an alternative. Standing or Dripping Bird Baths with a roughened surface for a “no slip” experience are favored by songbirds. Be sure to clean them monthly with soap and warm water in order to remove any litter that has fallen or bacteria that has formed.

If you notice that there are not many birds visiting your bird bath, experiment by moving the bird bath around to different spots in the yard. Also, be wary about whether there is cover or no cover. Birds love to have enough cover to retreat to, so the closer your bird bath is to trees or shrubs, the better!

Incorporate Native Plants

Be sure to always try and keep it native when it comes to your backyard and attracting wildlife, particularly birds.

Some bird-friendly native plant choices for the mid-Willamette Valley, all of which are available through Benton SWCD’s Winter 2022 Native Plant Sale:

Promote plant diversity; having an array of native plants will attract an array of bird species. Plant clusters of the same plant species together instead of spreading them out.

Avoid Nonnative Plants

Avoid invasive plants such as Japanese KnotweedEnglish Ivy, and Oblong Spurge. Check Benton SWCD’s invasive plant database to learn which plants are important to avoid in Benton County.

Have Plenty of Cover

a forest with trees of varying heights to demonstrateall the canopy layers that birds useCover is extremely important and probably one of the most important key elements when attracting songbirds to your backyard. Birds want to feel safe, and this means having a place where they can escape from predation while also having a place to roost and raise their young. Having a ton of tree cover and vertical structure not only provides birds with a safe habitat, but it also increases the variation of birds in your backyards. Different cover layers will bring along the different birds that favor those layers. For example, shrub layers are favored by species such as Grosbeaks, Towhees, and Thrushes while subcanopy layers are favored by species such as Juncos, Finches, and Hummingbirds. Species such as Siskins, Flickers, and Nuthatches enjoy the canopy layers.

Leave Dead Trees or Create a Brush Pile

Dead wood not only provides habitats for birds but also insects. The more insects in your yard, the more the birds will love to visit! Insects are especially important food for baby birds.

Brush piles are beneficial and well-loved by species such as Sparrows and Wrens, especially in the winter when there may be a decrease in cover. Be sure to check with your neighborhood or home regulations (if this applies to you). It is a violation in some places to have a brush pile in your backyard

Provide Nest Boxes

Nest boxes are also beneficial to species such as Western Bluebirds and Violet-green and Tree Swallows. Learn more about protecting swallows and bluebirds from house sparrows here. Space your nest boxes about 200 feet apart and be sure they have the appropriate drainage and ventilation. Nest boxes should be cleaned each year after use.

I hope that these tips will get you started with constructing the perfect bird-friendly garden and will increase the number of beautiful birds and other wildlife in your backyard. Follow these and I guarantee that your backyard birds will thank you and stay around for a long time!

Explore More

Bird Needs 4 Sheets

This 4-page handout created by Benton SWCD summarizes the kinds of Food, Cover, Water, and Nesting Sites to provide for birds.

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A Bird-Friendly Garden Plan

This double-sided handout includes a garden design by Signe Danler and a list of native plants that support birds.

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Bird Gardening Tips

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About the Author

Lauren Pharr

Lauren D. Pharr is a current Graduate Research Assistant at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Lauren is also an Ornithologist and Science Communicator, having written and contributed to pieces for The Cincinnati Zoo, WIRED Magazine, and Discover Magazine. To learn more about Lauren and follow her research, visit her Instagram, Twitter, and website:

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