Sharing the joy of birds since 1971
Photo by Patricia McGuire/Audubon Photography Awards

Bird-Friendly Habitats

Create a Safe and Healthy Habitat for Birds

Help birds thrive right where you live by making your home and yard more bird friendly. Adding native plants, nest boxes, and feeders to your yard will attract colorful birds and their sweet melodies. Even small patches of habitat provide tired, hungry birds with what they need, particularly during migration.

First, choose native plants for your yard. Growing bird-friendly plants will attract and protect the birds you love while making your space beautiful, easy to care for, and better for the environment. Purchasing or building a nest box for your yard can provide an essential area for many kinds of birds to nest and raise their young. Feeding birds quality seed helps them get through cold winters when insects are gone and provides hours of enjoyment. Watching feeder birds is often a springboard to a greater interest in our avian friends and the environment.

But … the world can be a dangerous place, even our backyards. The very best thing you can do for birds is to keep your cat indoors. Cats kill approximately 2.4 BILLION birds a year in the United States, making feline predation the biggest human-caused threat to birds. In addition, you might not realize that your home’s windows and sliding glass doors are major hazards. As many as one billion birds die each year because they see trees or sky reflected in windows and try to fly into them. Find solutions from the American Bird Conservancy and Safe Skies Maryland to help save birds from window strikes at your home.

Native Plants

Nest Boxes

Feeding Birds

Keep Cats Indoors

Save Birds from Window Strikes

Native Plants

A world without insects is a world without birds.

When planning your flower gardens and other yard plantings, focus on native plants that provide a good variety of bird food throughout the year for nesting, migrating, and wintering birds. You can search National Audubon Society’s native plants database for listings of the best bird- and wildlife-friendly plants for your area. It also offers a list of native plant nurseries and other resources near you. As you make your selections, think about providing the following food groups:

Cedar Waxwings prefer berries. Photo by George Jett

Plan Your Bird Habitat

Think of your garden as a habitat that you are creating to provide birds with food, shelter, and nesting sites throughout the year.

Native plants support insect larvae, which feed many birds and their young. Photo courtesy Douglas Tallamy

A beautiful native garden!

Preparing Your Garden

Prepare your garden well to save headaches later. If your site currently has turf grass or invasive plants, you will need to remove these. If you plan ahead, an easy method is to lay down newspaper at least six sheets deep, with plenty of overlap; wet it down; cover it with 4 to 6 inches of mulch; and let it sit until you are ready to plant. Though native plants generally don’t require additional fertilizer, you may want to check with your local native plant retailer to see if enriching your soil with organic compost is a good idea. Use deep edging—putting some sort of barrier (steel or plastic edging) that goes into the ground to separate the native plant area from the lawn area—to keep out lawn grass.


Plant in spring or fall and on cooler days. Follow planting instructions carefully and get tips on mulching around plants from the plant nursery or gardening center. Water as needed after planting: Native plants are adapted to local climate conditions and generally require less added water than non-native species, in the long run. However, almost all plants need some watering and extra care till they’ve become well established.

Photo by Bill Wilson

Caring for Your Garden

Steward your native plant habitat with tender loving care—but don’t be too neat.