Designing a Bird-Friendly Garden Landscape

If you are designing your garden to create a really bird-friendly landscape then there are a number of factors to take into account. The aim is to recreate the natural landscape where the birds live, as far as possible, so they feel at home in your habitat.

Try heading out to a park or natural space and look at the types of plants which grow in the areas where the birds are living, so that you can mimic this approach in your own garden when you get home.

We asked the experts of and here are our top tips for designing a bird-friendly garden:

  1. Recreate the natural landscape

 Have a look at the layers of plants which grow in natural landscapes, from the ground level up, and try to recreate this type of layered effect in your own garden. Most natural landscapes have ground cover, bushes and shrubs and then a tree canopy, all providing natural shelter and safety for birds.

  1. Choose plants which help to feed birds

Most people think about feeding birds with bird feeders in the winter but if you really want to create a bird-friendly garden you should look to plant bushes and shrubs which can provide food all year round.

Birds need food for their chicks in the spring and summer months so think about fruit trees and shrubs with berries, as well as plants with nectar. That way there will be food in your garden for birds all year.

  1. Limit your lawn and provide shrubs instead

A huge open lawn space will not help to attract birds which prefer areas of shrubs and shelter to feel safe. Limit your lawn to a small area and plant clumps of shrubs together so that birds can hide within them and also feed off the berries which they will provide.

  1. Stick to native plants

Make sure you stick to native plants and avoid any invasive species which could take over your garden and end up causing more harm than good. This is another good reason for seeing what grows naturally in parks and other natural environments so that you can plant the same species.

  1. Provide water for the birds

A sure-fire way to attract birds into your garden is to provide them with a regular and safe supply of water which they can use for both drinking and bathing. This can be in the form of a bird bath, a bowl or a water feature which birds can access. Make sure the water is safely out of the reach of predators so it is not putting the birds at risk.

  1. Set up nest boxes

Birds often struggle to find suitable trees to make their nests in so creating safe nesting box areas will really help to make your garden bird-friendly. They need to be in a place where they are sheltered from bad weather and also inaccessible by predators.

Make sure the nesting boxes have small enough entrance holes to prevent squirrels and other predators from getting into them, to encourage birds to use them and feel safe. You should also provide trees and shrubs for natural protection.

  1. Provide ground feed for birds

Make sure to provide feed for birds which like to rummage in the ground so have some bark covering areas or leaf litter areas where birds can rummage through and eat insects and worms which live underneath. A nice spot under a tree in the shade will see this type of area naturally develop if you don’t rake away all the leaves each time they fall.

  1. Avoid using pesticides and chemicals

For a really bird-friendly landscape, it’s important to keep it as natural as possible so avoid using pesticides as these will kill off all the insects the birds need to feed upon and can also harm the birds as well.

Use chemicals like lawn feed and plant feed sparingly as well and try to keep everything in your garden as natural as possible to encourage the birds and to help keep them happy and healthy.

Creating a bird-friendly garden landscape just takes a little planning and a lot of copying from nature to be truly effective. By mimicking the landscape in nearby parks and open spaces which birds are already living in you will go a long way to attracting them into your garden.

Providing them with everything they need to live including natural year-round food sources, water supply and safe and secure nesting areas will help to keep the birds coming back and living in your garden regularly, all year round.

Watching birds flitting around your garden can be incredibly relaxing for you and by creating a bird-friendly space you will be supporting local wildlife in a simple and easy way, throughout all the seasons.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Neil Anderson says:

    I would strongly disagree that we should stick to just native plants, though I certainly encourage the planting of native species too. Many of the species much valued in gardens/parks to birds this time of year such as Cotoneasters, Pyracantha, various non-native Sorbus are exotic.

    Similarly exotic flowers are the reason that Buff-tailed Bumblebees now have overwintering colonies in many suburban areas as they can forage from exotic plants such as Mahonias, winter flowering non-native Lonicera, etc.

    Yes native plants are an important ingredient but as other studies have demonstrated there is no need to restrict a garden to these and by careful selection a garden can support a greater biodiversity by mixing native and good exotics.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Neil about the current pop-culture aversion to native plants. The term “invasive species” reminds me of politics at USA’s borders. What ,exactly, are these plants invading? Growing with gusto, yes. But invaders? They are simply demonstrating the will to live and propagate.

    If I determine that a plant doesn’t fit the scheme in the gardens, I simply remove them as gently as possible with sincere whispers of apology. It’s a lazy gardener who can’t manage the beds given to their stewardship.

    Regardless, James Common’s writing and photography are a delight. Thank you, James — even if I strongly disagree with the knee-jerk reaction to so-called plant invaders. Many of my fellow naturalists here in the Ozark Highlands are afflicted with this well-meaning malady.

    Here at 3 Dog Acres, the birds we nurture are plentiful, beautiful, and very hungry. We’ve created a natural dining hall from seven large limestone and sandstone boulders, arranged in a semi-circle running about 45-feet between an arbor entrance to the east arboretum.

    Each morning and sometimes again in the afternoon we deliver millet, milo, cracked corn, and sunflower seeds to the tables and watch with great pleasure as the cardinals, blue jays, doves, sparrows, woodpeckers, chickadees, warblers, and other hungry birds peck their way to satisfaction. The ground feeders James mentioned are also well served because the seeds spill over the edges of the old rocks and fall to the river gravel below.

    It’s amazing how well the different species get along. The male cardinals spar with one another now ‘n then and most everyone gives ample space to the jays, but it’s a happy band of birds here at the retreat.

    I look forward to reading you often, James. Have you thought about identifying the creatures and scenes in your awesome photographs? Telling us about the circumstances and details of your images would make for rewarding reading.

    Yours in solidarity with the natural realm,

    Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
    the Ozark Highlands of Arkansas

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James Common says:

      Hi Ebenezer,

      Thank you for your in-depth comment. I should have added that this particular post was a guest blog, and does not represent my views. Like you, I take a laid back approach to non-native plants – unless, that is, they’re causing huge problems in the wild. Live and let live I say, for the most part at least.

      As for labelling my photographs – sure, good idea! I think I take for granted that most of my readers are based in the UK and, as such, are familiar with the wildlife featured. I will endeavour to do so in the future!

      Thank you for your kind comments.

      Kind regards,

      Liked by 1 person

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