Topic: Landscaping

Date Posted: Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

Kathryn McKenzie, Living Green: Turn your yard into a bird sanctuary

Kathryn McKenzie, Living Green: Turn your yard into a bird sanctuary

At my home in rural North Monterey County, I wake up to the sound of birds singing and the sight of hummingbirds zipping in and out of the Mexican sage and nasturtiums that grow under the oak trees.

But you don’t have to live way out in the country to have your own bird sanctuary. In fact, with a few minor tweaks to your outdoor living area, just about any space can provide shelter and support for feathered friends.

It’s more important than ever to provide a safe haven for birds, whose habitats are increasingly threatened by human development, pesticide use and, especially this year, historic drought in the West, which not only dries up sources of water but is decimating the forests.



The good news is that most birds’ needs are simple. They need water and shelter, as well as a food source. If nothing else, think about providing water this year to help birds through the dry times.

Water >> Even if you only have a small patio or a balcony, you can place a birdbath there. Any small, shallow dish will do, a long as you change the water every few days, and make sure it is not so deep that birds would have trouble getting in and out of it. If cats are around, an elevated birdbath would be a good choice, so the birds can drink and bathe in safety.



Food >> Providing seed or nectar in bird feeders is one way to help out, but if you have a garden, you can also plant native shrubs and flowers that support birds, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Trees and thick shrubs can provide nesting places and cover for birds, and other plants will provide food or attract insects that birds feed on.

Whether you go with bird feeders, native plants or both, a good source of information is the Wild Bird Haven store at Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey, where you’ll find more details on what plants and feeders are best for our local birds.

In addition, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ( offers lists of native plants according to region; go to the site and click on “Special Collections” to find plants recommended for Northern California.

Shelter >> If you don’t have the space or wherewithal to plant trees that birds can nest in, then consider installing a birdhouse in your outdoor space. (Birds tend to use birdhouses primarily for raising their babies, so don’t be surprised if it isn’t inhabited year-round.)

Keep in mind that birdhouses should have fairly small entry holes so other animals can’t enter. Some guidelines for selecting birdhouses can be found

Safety >> Pesticide use not only can harm birds, it also can harm the insects that many of them depend on for food. Keeping your yard free of harmful pesticides will give birds a safe place to land.

Another important issue is keeping birds away from cats, which unfortunately have affected bird populations in some areas. Make your cats indoor pets (which is also a better choice for the cats — they’ll live longer and be healthier), and if you install birdhouses, bird feeders or bird baths around your home, place them so cats and other predators can’t get to the birds that are using them.

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