Landscaping Tips By installing a few features, you can make your yard more natural and bird friendly than a polished, professionally-landscaped and trimmed yard. Include plants with a variety of shapes and sizes with some that spill out of their boundaries to provide spaces for birds and insects to forage and take cover. Downy Woodpecker foraging on a common sunflower by Donald Navarre Avoid “dead-heading” flowers to leave seeds and fruit behind that become excellent food sources. Such seeds may fall to the ground and grow into another plant that will provide more food the following year. Unraked leaves will make habitat available for plenty of proteinaceous insects that birds can feast on.Brush piles can serve as great hideaways for birds that protect them from predators. They also provide safe places to forage for seeds and insects. Standing dead or partially dead trees, referred to as snags, can provide great resources for birds. Woodpeckers and nuthatches may nest in snag cavities, along with some other species, including owls. Insects thrive in dead trees, which can in turn provide a meal for foraging birds. While snags are great at providing food and shelter, make sure that they are a safe distance from your house, other buildings, and human activity. Reducing the amount of space in your yard that is covered by mowed lawn in favor of native shrubs and trees is good for providing more habitat that birds can use to rest during migration, nest, or forage in. Grass lawns don’t often offer enough food or shelter for many birds and other wildlife. Check out the NestWatch website’s page on Landscaping for Birds to learn about Nest-friendly mowing practices.Avoid using pesticides to get rid of unwanted insects and plants. Neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” are one of North America’s most widely used insecticides. Neonics are lethal to birds and to insects that the birds eat. Not only do pesticides reduce the amount of insects available for birds to consume, but they can also harm birds that come into contact with neonic-contaminated plant seeds. Avoiding herbicide use, such as Roundup, can help reduce the chance of harm for birds foraging on your land. Blue Jay splashing in a birdbath by Harry Nieman Installing water features can provide birds a place to bathe or drink. In most cases, a birdbath or water sprayer can provide an adequate water source. However, the more natural the water feature, the more quickly birds will discover it. Consider adding a pump to create movement in your water feature. You could even create a bubbling rock water feature or small waterfall, if your yard allows. Birds prefer shallow, ground-level water features, especially with places to perch, such as stones or branches arranged in the water to stand on. It is important, if you have a birdbath, to maintain and clean it by changing the water frequently and scrubbing out any algae build up, but do not use chemicals like bleach unless you let the water feature dry completely before refilling with water. Place a birdbath or water feature near shrubs, trees, or a brush pile to provide birds with added protection from predators. In freezing climates, a heater will keep ice from forming. Check out our Landscaping for Birds page and Cornell’s Bird Academy Course, Growing Wild: Gardening for Birds and Nature for more ways to make your yard bird-friendly.