Birds Without Borders – Aves Sin Fronteras®
Tips for Helping Birds
Like humans and other animals, birds need food, water and shelter to survive. Below, we list the ways you can provide these resources and help birds.
- Create bird habitat in your yard or on your land by growing native plants. Make the habitat diverse by planting a mixture of grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees, similar to natural areas. If you have native plants growing on your land, preserve and protect them.
Native plants are those that are naturally found in your area. Why native plants?
- They provide fruits, insects and nectar for many birds.
- They provide shelter and places for birds to build nests.
- They tolerate seasonal climate changes.
If you must clear part of your land, leave as many native trees and plants as possible. See the list of references below for more information.
“Regardless of the size of your yard, you can help reverse the loss of bird habitat. By planting native plants upon which our birds depend, you'll be rewarded with a bounty of birds and natural beauty just beyond your doorstep.”1
- Try to preserve the natural habitats that are present on your land.
The most important habitats are those that are not changed by people. If you need to clear an area of land, leave as much natural vegetation as possible.
- If you have naturally occurring water on your land, preserve it for birds.
Water that occurs naturally, such as flowing streams, small ponds or wetlands, can provide birds with much-needed water and/or food. You can also provide water for birds with a birdbath. Be sure to rinse and clean the birdbath often. In winter, consider a heated birdbath.
- Help preserve dead trees (snags) and stumps where birds nest.
Many birds nest in holes (cavities) found in living and dead standing trees and stumps, on cliffs and in walls. You can help cavity-nesting birds by saving dead trees instead of cutting them down.
- Create a brush pile for birds.
Instead of removing or burning logs, branches and brush, use these to build a brush pile for birds in a corner of your yard or property. Brush piles provide birds with cover, places to nest, and protection from predators and harsh weather.
- Think before you use pesticides and avoid using them whenever possible. If you must use pesticides, use them wisely and follow directions on the label. Choose pesticides that are very specific rather than general.
Chemicals we use to control pests or weeds in our lawns, gardens, fields, orchards and plantations can harm birds. Remember, birds control pests naturally.
- Prevent bird-window collisions.
Glass is invisible to birds and can reflect images of the sky, trees and plants. You can prevent bird-window collisions by closing curtains or blinds when birds are active, hanging ribbons or streamers in front of windows, placing decals on windows, and moving houseplants so that they are not directly in front of windows. This is important year-round, but especially during bird migration periods. For more information, see:
Fatal Light Awareness Program
New York City Audubon Bird-Safe Building Guidelines
Wisconsin Night Guardians for Songbirds
- Keep your pet cat indoors; the cat will live longer, and so will the birds.
Cats that roam free don’t just kill rodents. They also kill many wild birds and other wildlife. Even cats that are well-fed by their owners still have a natural instinct to hunt. What is best for your cat (staying indoors) also helps birds. For more information, see the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors! program.
- Drink shade-grown coffee.
Shade-grown coffee tastes better, and supports winter habitats for migratory birds and year-round habitats for tropical resident birds. For more information, see:
Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Bird-Friendly Coffee
- Buy a Federal Migratory Bird (Duck) Stamp.
Duck stamps support habitat conservation for all species of birds. You can buy these stamps at your local post office or through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service online.
- Support or volunteer for conservation groups.
There are many conservation and conservation-education organizations working to protect our environment and its birds and other wildlife. Many of these groups are looking for volunteers.
- Get people excited about birds.
Help count birds by participating in citizen science projects. For more information about volunteering, see:
Christmas Bird Count
Great Backyard Bird Count
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Citizen Science Projects
Milwaukee County Avian Migration Monitoring Partnership
Learn about birds and other animals in programs led by bird clubs, conservation and conservation-education organizations.
Landowners can work together to conserve and protect larger areas of habitat. Talk with your neighbors to see if they are interested in joining forces to help save bird habitat. Large areas of habitat are best for most bird species; so working with others to preserve these areas will enhance birds’ survival during all stages of their life cycle.
1 Nowak, Mariette. 2003. Beyond the bird feeder: creating a bird friendly yard with native Wisconsin plants. Online at: http://www.wsobirds.org/birdscaping.pdf
For more information, please check out the following publications.
Nowak, Mariette. 2007. Birdscaping in the Midwest: a guide to gardening with native plants to attract birds. Itchy Cat Press. Blue Mounds, WI.
Backyard Conservation. 2007. Backyard conservation: bringing conservation from the countryside to your backyard. A joint project of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Association of Conservation Districts, Wildlife Habitat Council, and National Audubon Society. Washington DC.
Pearson, Carol and Mary Keirstead. 1998. Planning for the birds: things to consider when managing your forest. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. St. Paul, MN.
Sample, David and Michael Mossman. 1997. Managing habitat for grassland birds: a guide for Wisconsin. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources PUBL-SS-925-97. Madison, WI.
Erickson, Laura. 2006. 101 ways to help birds. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
Green, Janet. 1995. Birds and forests: a management and conservation guide. Minnesota DNR, St. Paul, MN.
Wild Ones. 2004. Wild Ones landscaping with native plants. Wild Ones, Appleton, WI.