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Creating a Bird Garden  

Last Updated: Nov 8, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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The LuEsther T. Mertz Library 
The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.
Bronx, NY 10458


Noteworthy Books on Bird Gardens

Cover Art
Bird Gardens - Stephen W. Kress (Editor); Brooklyn Botanic Garden Botanists Staff (Editor)
Call Number: QM 676.5 .B57 1998
ISBN: 1889538086
Publication Date: 2001-12-31

Cover Art
Birds in Your Backyard - Robert J. Dolezal; Reader's Digest Editors
Call Number: QM 676.5 .D65 2005
ISBN: 0762104953
Publication Date: 2004-10-21

Cover Art
Birdscaping Your Garden - George Adams
Call Number: QM 676.5 .A3 1994
ISBN: 0875966357
Publication Date: 1994-10-01

Cover Art
The Bird Garden - Stephen W. Kress; Roger Tory Peterson (Foreword by); Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff
Call Number: QM 676.5 .K75 1995
ISBN: 0789401398
Publication Date: 1995-09-09


Creating a Bird Garden

Creating a bird garden is a wonderful way to attract birds to your yard. The best way to create a bird garden is to provide birds with what they need: shelter, food, water and places to nest.

  • Shelter: Birds need shelter to protect them from predators and the elements. In the winter, they need protection from snow, and during the year they seek refuge from heavy rain, wind, and predators.
  • Food: Plants supply birds with a large part of their diet, from seeds and fruits to providing a home for the insects that many birds feed on.
  • Water: Birds need water for drinking and bathing. Smaller birds tend to bathe in 1/2 inches of water, while larger birds prefer a 2-inch depth. You can build a small garden pond, buy a birdbath from a garden center, or place a large, shallow dish of water in your garden.
  • Nesting Sites: Birds have different requirements for nesting sites. Some birds like to build their nests in evergreens (such as pine or spruce), while others prefer deciduous trees (such as oak, birch, apple and ash) where they can make their homes either in the intersections of large branches or in cavities in tree trunks. Shrubs that are not too dense or thinly branched often make good homes for bird nests. Plants such as rhododendrons and viburnums do not have the three-way forks in their branch structure that can support a nest. While these shrubs offer important shelter and food for birds, they do not provide a suitable nesting site.

Designing a Bird Garden

  • Design your garden with varying layers--tall trees, medium-size shrubs and perennials and ornamental grasses. This will accommodate many different types of birds.
  • Plant your garden to provide shelter for birds. Planting evergreens on the northern side of your property will protect birds from cold, northerly winds while allowing sunlight into the south side of the garden.
  • Plant perennials and smaller shrubs in groups of threes, fives or sevens to create a more natural look and to cover an area that birds can easily find and use. If you plant only one shrub that produces berries, for example, the berries may be decimated after birds' first visit.
  • Variety is important; select a range of plants that provide food at different times of the season and attract a variety of bird species.
  • Create a dust bath in a sunny spot near the area where your birds feed. Sparrows in particular love to spend hours playing on dusty ground and they are entertaining to watch.
  • Although it is important to rake the leaves on your lawn to prevent turf die-off, do not remove leaf litter in your perennial beds or under your shrubs. These leaves will compost and provide important nutrients to the soil. They will also be a haven for many of the insects that birds feed on.
  • Create a brush pile at the edge of your property, starting with your old Christmas tree and any fallen branches from trees and shrubs. Create a 6 foot-long pile with loosely stacked branches. Brush piles provide cover for birds and attract insects to their decaying branches.

Plants That Attract Birds


Abies sp. firs shelter and nesting
Acer sp. maples fruit or seeds
Betula sp. birches fruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Cornus sp. dogwoods  fruit or seeds
Ilex sp. hollies  fruit or seeds
Juniperus sp.  junipers/red cedars fruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Malus sp.  apples and crabapples fruit or seeds
Picea sp.  spruces  fruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Pinus sp.  pines  fruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Prunus sp. cherries  fruit or seeds
Quercus sp.  oaks shelter and nesting 
Sorbus sp.  mountain ash  fruit or seeds
Tsuga sp. hemlocks  shelter and nesting


Alnus sp. alders  nesting
Amelanchier sp. shadbush fruit or seeds
Ilex sp. hollies fruit or seeds
Juniperus sp. junipers  shelter
Leucothoe sp.  leucothoes  shelter 
Myrica sp. bayberry  fruit or seeds 
Rhododendron sp.  rhododendrons  shelter 
Rhus sp.  blackberries fruit or seeds 
Rosa sp.  roses nesting
Spiraea sp.  spireas  nesting
Syringa sp. lilacs nesting
Taxus sp.  yews nesting
Vaccinium sp. blueberries fruit or seeds 
Viburnum sp. viburnums  fruit or seeds 

Perennials and Annuals

Aster sp. aster seeds and nectar
Coreopsis sp. coreopsis, tickseed seeds and nectar
Cosmos sp. cosmos  seeds and nectar
Echinacea sp.  coneflowers  seeds and nectar 
Eupatorium sp.  Joe-pye weed  seeds and nectar
Helianthus sp. sunflowers  seeds and nectar 
Liatris sp.  blazing star  seeds and nectar
Rudbeckia sp. black-eyed Susans  seeds and nectar 
Sedum sp.  sedums  seeds and nectar
Solidago sp. goldenrod  seeds and nectar
Tagetes sp.  marigolds  seeds and nectar
Vernonia noveboracensis New York ironweed seeds and nectar
Zinnia sp. zinnias seeds and nectar 

Homemade Bird Feeder

It's not a plant, but a bird feeder can provide supplementary food for your bird garden. Here is a recipe for a simple one:

  • Mix 1 cup of peanut butter with 1/4 cup of honey.
  • Spread this mixture on a pine cone or bagel.
  • Roll the pine cone or bagel in birdseed.
  • Add a piece of yarn, and hang the feeder from a tree.

NYBG Garden Navigator

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  • NYBG Garden Navigator
    Use this resource to explore the NYBG grounds, including information about specific plants, bloom times, and garden features.
  • NYBG Garden Guides
    Guides from the Plant Information Office related to specific NYBG gardens, including their history, design, and current plantings.

Bird-Watching at the Garden

Check out our list of bird species found here at NYBG!

The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer bird-watchers a chance to see dozens of species of birds throughout the year. The Garden’s magnificent 250 acres of outdoor gardens and collections, open meadows, native forest, and waterbodie,s such as the Bronx River and Twin Lakes, entice birds migrating through the area in spring and fall and those that stay to nest in summer or to spend the winter.


Videos on Bird Gardens


Birding Apps


Useful Websites

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