Welcome migratory birds to your backyard with native trees, shrubs

This is a guest post by Marianne Dawson. Marianne will be presenting a  public education program on migratory birds visiting Metro Vancouver during the summer and how to create habitat for them in backyards and attract them to nest on April 9 at 6pm at the New Westminster Public Library. You can read more from Marianne at urbanhabitatforbirds.blogspot.com.

As gardeners across Metro Vancouver begin working in their gardens, there are some spring and summer visitors who are very interested in what they are doing. These visitors are the birds. Every summer, thousands of these little migrants fly up from the States and South America to breed in and around Vancouver. But as commercial and residential developments spring up in former bird habitat, some of these visitors will find it increasingly difficult to compete with invasive birds for the last remaining nest sites.

A Yellow Warbler is a summer visitor to the Vancouver area. Photo: Marianne Dawson.
A Yellow Warbler is a summer visitor to the Vancouver area. Photo: Marianne Dawson.

In 2003, a study showed that in highly urbanized areas, three of the four most common birds were non-native species. The researchers attributed this to a lack of suitable habitat for Vancouver’s native birds. The highly competitive nature of non-native birds for food and nest spots only makes the problem worse. Every year, migratory birds are having more and more trouble finding the food and nests they need due to these unsuitable habitats, invasive species, and shrinking territories. But the situation is relatively easy to fix.

Most birds think that perfectly manicured lawns are a yawn. What they want most are native plants planted in a natural way, similar to how a forest is structured. This includes trees such as Rocky Mountain Juniper, mixed with medium shrubs, and some flowers and ground-creeping plants like Kinnikinnick to finish it off. To really get these birds excited, the addition of feeders and bird baths will make your yard seem like a luxury suite. They will be breaking down the door to get a chance to nest and raise chicks in your backyard.

Currently, most migratory birds will try and find parks and undeveloped areas to nest in. Creating bird-friendly backyards will make habitat corridors to link parks together and encourage our friendly migrants to nest in new places and better compete against invasive species.

To learn more about how to help these little birds, visit the What the Heck Are You Doing Down There blog at urbanhabitatforbirds.blogspot.com.

3 Replies to “Welcome migratory birds to your backyard with native trees, shrubs”

  1. Bill: actually, chickens are allowed in New West (not roosters though). Your lot has to be bigger than a certain size and there are limits on how many chooks you keep. Will's been working on a post about it, but I'll see if I can get him to share the details here too!

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