Use Native Plants to Attract Birds to Your Yard
The best way to bring birds into your yard is with native plants and a water source. This provides everything birds need to survive – shelter, food, water, space. Having a variety of Colorado native plant species ensures you have food for a diversity of bird types – from seed, to insects, to nectar and berries. Denver Audubon has a Native Colorado Plants for Birds handout and you can go to Audubon Rockies Habitat Hero Resources to get plant lists and designs. They even have designs for patios and planter boxes! Use the National Audubon Native Plants Database to find plants specific to your zip code, including which birds each plant will attract.
To keep the birds in your neighborhood safe and happy?
• Keeping cats indoors is the single most beneficial action for birds in our yards. Just the presence of a cat will discourage birds from spending time in a yard. Cats will hunt for fun and kill a high number of birds within their territory – having a bigger impact than natural predators of birds (Kays, 2020). Humane societies and veterinarians also recommend keeping pet cats from roaming to prevent disease and injury.
• Make your windows – especially large picture windows – bird-safe to help your birds. Use special patterns with tape or paint, install screens, or apply UV film (note: doves cannot see UV) to the exterior of the window to prevent birds from seeing the reflection and flying into it. Watch our Bird Window Strike Prevention video (coming soon) and visit our Bird Window Strike Prevention page for more details.
What Birds Are You Likely To See?
Very common Colorado backyard birds are the House Finch, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, American Robin, nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker, goldfinches, and bushtits. When you include native butterfly host plants and fruit-bearing natives in your yard, the types of birds increases and may draw the Cedar Waxwing, warblers, Bullock’s Oriole, and Say’s Phoebe. Go to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds to learn how to identify birds, their songs, and where they nest. We have a YouTube playlist of short videos on common “Garden Birds” on the Denver Audubon YouTube channel
What about Feeders?
Native plants will provide everything birds need, but if you want to install feeders, buy several types and place them at varying levels with some distance in between. Clean your feeders monthly by removing old seed, cleaning them with soapy water, and dunking them in a nine-to-one water-bleach solution. Dry thoroughly before adding new seed and hanging them back up. If you are in an area where bears might visit, do not install feeders. Bears will come out at any time of day if there is a known food source like a bird feeder. Feeders also attract other wildlife that may become a nuisance.
We hope you enjoy your birds and start seeing more of them!
Kays, R. et. al. “The small home ranges and large local ecological impacts of pet cats.” Animal Conservation, 11 March 2020. https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acv.12563