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Planting Native Plants and Flowers for Birds

If you want birds, don’t just think about birds.


If you want birds, you have to create great spaces for bugs, frogs, toads, squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies and even bacteria. If you want birds, you have to create a landscape with multiple layers and textures and a great mosaic of species that can thrive throughout all four seasons. If you want birds, you have to provide food, water, shelter, breeding areas, nursery space for babies and spaces for birds to hang out and chill. If you want birds, you need healthy air, healthy soil, and even a direct route to South America.


Think this is all too much? An impossibility in your little backyard? Are you saying, “I’d need a thousand acres and a Harvard degree!”? Well, you are wrong.

Creating a healthy natural ecosystem is the key to gardening for birds, and you can do it!


It all starts with the simple act of planting some native plant species. You can start small with planter. If you have more space, try a lovely native flower garden, add some shrubs as time goes by, maybe plant a tree, throw in a little bird bath, and BAM - the world’s your oyster. Suddenly you have created a multilayered landscape with textures, critters, and a growing colony of soil bacteria. As your garden grows, it provides the food, shelter and other areas birds need to thrive. You have also started to create a bubble of cleaner air and soil. Best of all? You’ve added another link in a bird’s migration route to South America. Pretty simple eh? Well, at least do-able?


Let’s break this down:

  • Grow native species with a variety of heights and colours - the more the merrier!

  • Plant in clumps to create as many mini ecosystems as possible.

  • Throw in a bit of water like a bird bath or mini pond to provide drinking water and a bird bathing area.

  • Mulch your leaves to keep those nutrients feeding your plants and soil bacteria.

  • Don’t cut back your flowers in the fall! There are still seeds there for birds and you will create additional layers of important winter habitat.

  • Keep your pets out of the area. Cats and birds never mix, and dogs can scare off wildlife.

The plants to plant:

  • Brown-eyed Susan, coneflowers, milkweed, bee balm and many other native wildflowers are super bird-friendly and will bring a smile to your face as well.

  • Evergreens are great for winter shelter: pine, cedar, and spruce are all great options.

  • Birds love fruiting trees such as serviceberry, mountain ash, sumac, nannyberry, cherry, and hawthorn. These are smaller trees that can fit in urban yards.

  • Is a tree too much commitment? Dogwoods, raspberry, cranberry, and elderberry are great shrubs for food and shelter.

Need more help? There is a plethora of information at your fingertips using a Google search such as “Gardening for Birds”, “Native Plants to Attract Birds”, “Creating a Bird-friendly Backyard,” or any combination of those words. There are also great local resources who can help with your new hobby. Peterborough Field Naturalists, GreenUP’s Ecology Park, and businesses such as The Avant-Garden Shop and local garden centres are happy to provide information and encouragement. Don’t expect an overnight miracle, but with a bit of time and patience, you will have an oasis for both the birds and you.


GreenUP has a great list of plants native to Peterborough.

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