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13 February 2000 Issue
Benefits of Landscaping For Birds

At least ten benefits can be derived from landscaping to attract birds to your yard:

* Increased Wildlife Populations

You can probably double the number of bird species using your property with a good landscaping plan.

* Energy Conservation

By carefully arranging your conifer and hardwood trees, you can lower winter heating and summer cooling bills for your house.

* Soil Conservation

Certain landscape plants can prevent soil erosion.

* Natural Beauty

A good landscaping plan will contribute to a beautiful, natural setting around your home that is pleasing to people as well as birds.

* Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography is a wonderful hobby for people of all ages.

* Birdwatching

A fun hobby is to keep a list of all the birds seen in your yard or from your yard. Some people have counted over 190 species of birds in their yard!

* Natural Insect Control

Birds such as tree swallows, house wrens, brown thrashers, and orioles eat a variety of insects.

* Food Production

Some plants that attract wildlife are also appealing to people. Cherries, chokecherries, strawberries, and crabapples can be shared by people and wildlife.

* Property Value

A good landscaping plan can greatly increase the value of your property by adding natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife.

* Habitat for Kids

Some of the best wildlife habitats are the best "habitats" for young people to discover the wonders of nature. A backyard habitat can stimulate young people to develop a lifelong interest in wildlife and conservation.

BASICS OF LANDSCAPING FOR BIRDS

Landscaping for birds involves nine basic principles:

* Food

Every bird species has its own unique food requirements, and these may change as the bird matures and as the seasons change. Learn the food habits of the birds you wish to attract. Then plant the appropriate trees, shrubs, or flowers that will provide the fruits, berries, grains, seeds, acorns, nuts, or nectar.

* Water

You can probably double the number of bird species in your yard by providing a source of water. A frog pond, water garden, or bird bath will get lots of bird use, especially if the water is dripping, splashing, or moving.

* Shelter

Birds need places where they can hide from predators and escape from severe weather. Trees (including hollow ones), shrubs, tall grass, and bird houses provide excellent shelter.

* Diversity

The best landscaping plan is one that includes a wide variety of plants. This helps attract a greater number of bird species.

* Four Seasons

It is necessary to provide birds with food and shelter during all four seasons of the year. Plant trees, shrubs, and flowers that will provide year-round food and shelter.

* Arrangement

Habitat components need to be properly arranged. Consider the effects of prevailing winds (and snow drifting) so your yard will be protected from harsh winter weather.

* Protection

Birds should be protected from unnecessary mortality. When choosing the placement of bird feeders and nest boxes, consider their accessibility to predators.

Picture windows can be death traps for birds. A network of parallel, vertical strings spaced 4 inches apart can be placed on the outside of windows to prevent this problem.

You also should be cautious about the kinds of herbicides and pesticides used in your yard. They should be applied only when necessary and strictly according to label instructions.

* Hardiness Zones

When considering plants not native to your area, consult a plant hardiness zone map (they are in most garden catalogues). Make sure the plants you want are rated for the winter hardiness zone classification of your area.

* Soils and Topography

Consult with your local garden center, university, or county extension office to have a soil test done for your yard. Plant species are often adapted to certain types of soils. By knowing what type of soil you have, you can identify the types of plants that should grow best in your yard.

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