Are you enchanted by birdsong? Would you like to invite birds into your garden? When you create a space that features suitable plants and species that are native to Québec, they’ll be able to settle in and raise their young.
What are the criteria for getting Bird Garden certification?
For your Bird Garden to be certified, you must at least meet the three mandatory criteria listed below:
- Put in plants that allow birds to be protected from bad weather and predators: trees, shrubs, hedges or vegetation in clumps.
- Provide a variety of food sources in all seasons (diversity of plant species producing fruit or seeds) and a clean, shallow water source.
- Maintain your garden in an ecologically friendly way: choose suitable plants, feed seedlings with compost, use water wisely, be tolerant in the face of pest or disease problems, and so on.
- Create a safe area for birds by keeping cats out of the garden, if possible, and by marking windows;
- Use native plants, which will attract native fauna. Replace exotic plants with species from here, as needed.
- Add bird feeders or suet cages to provide a complementary source of food.
- Reduce lawn surface and increase flower bed areas.
How to make a Bird Garden?
When considering making a Bird Garden, you have to think in terms of comfort and abundance. Offer a pleasant, calm and safe environment by varying the height of plants and providing camouflage areas – and always offer water, food, and perches that are out of the reach of predatory felines!
Step 1 - Preparing an inviting habitat
Perches to observe the surroundings
Plant vegetation in tiers, creating three levels, if possible. Birds will land in larger trees, approach from shrubs and explore in the undergrowth. When a tree dies, remove only the dangerous parts, leaving the rest to serve as a perch.
Trees and shrubs provide birds with protection from weather conditions and predators. Opt for plants that form wide hedges and clumps, providing sufficient cover for their nests.
Choose plant species from here – native flora attracts native wildlife. It’s important that you don’t promote the presence of introduced species such as starlings and house sparrows, which will scare away native birds.
For more information:
Step 2 - Creating abundance
A source of water
Ensure access to a source of clean, shallow water. Don’t forget to change the water in bird baths daily in summer and to clean them regularly. It’s possible to find devices to prevent your water source from freezing in winter at specialty stores and online.
Plant a variety of plant species that produce fruits and seeds. Feeders and suet cages also help foster bird biodiversity. To keep squirrels and non-native birds away, choose feeders that are inverted, weight-activated or those with short perches. Allow leaf litter to accumulate at tree bases to support an insect community that will provide food for the birds.
You can find these feeders in specialty stores and online.
Very few species use birdhouses. Most birds prefer to build their own nest with their own choice of materials. Birdhouses can also boost non-native bird species. It’s best not to have them in your garden.
Step 3 - Establish a safe area
The danger posed by windows
Collisions with windows are the leading cause of death for birds. Consider installing exterior screens, stickers or light curtains to signal the presence of your windows. Furthermore, make sure to install feeders, suet cages and other food sources at least3 metresfrom windows (birds do not have enough flying momentum to injure themselves), or more than6 metresfrom the house (giving birds enough distance to avoid the obstacle).
Beware of cats!
Predation by domestic cats is the second leading cause of death for birds in North America. If possible, keep these skilled hunters out of your garden. If your cat has access, attach a bell to his collar. The ringing will alert the birds of the predator’s arrival, making hunting a little more difficult.
Step 4 - Maintain your garden in an ecologically friendly way
Avoid cleaning up planting beds in the fall
In the great majority of cases, pruning perennials in the fall is not only unnecessary but undesirable as well. In leaving the dead leaves and dried-out stems where they are, you provide shelter to many useful organisms and enable birds to enjoy the seeds and fruit that survive on plants at the end of the season. You also ensure better wintertime protection for your plants. Finally, in leaving Mother Nature alone, you allow all that organic matter to enrich the soil as it decomposes.
For more information:
Limiting light pollution
Light pollution disrupts the behaviour of birds, notably by disorienting them during migration, which increases the risk of collision.
Turn off your garden lights at night or install a timer or motion detector to have lights on only when truly necessary. Do not direct lights towards the sky.
Your garden will welcome birds, but also insects. Learn to accept their presence, to know them and even to appreciate them. They constitute an essential element in biodiversity. A number of them contribute to the ecological control of pests. Moreover, insects are on the menu of some of our winged friends!
Should a problem with insect pests, disease or weeds require intervention on your part, apply cultural, physical or mechanical control methods. Use low-impact pesticides only as a last resort.
For more information:
- Control methods
- Biological control: how to attract the right insects to your garden
- Pests and diseases
- Getting to know low-impact pesticides
Did you know that …
With carefully-chosen plants, you can provide a food source for birds throughout the year.
By attracting native birds, indigenous plants can reduce the presence of non-native species such as starlings and house sparrows.