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The Beginners Guide to Backyard Birding: Learn the secret to having more birds in your backyard.

 male Black-chinned Hummingbird feeding on a sage flower.
Hummingbird and Sage

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A small Carolina Wren sits on a old stump
Carolina Wren

Do you want to see more birds in your backyard? Do you want to attract new species of birds, insects, and reptiles? I did, so I learned how to do just that. Amazingly, It's quite easy. All you have to do is go native!

This post will tell you what it means to go native. We will also go over how you can get started landscaping your backyard with native plants and how it will benefit the local ecosystem and environment. At the same time, it will help attract more wildlife for you to watch or photograph. Not just birds, but insects and reptiles too.

When I say to go native, I simply mean that you need to plant native plants. Native plants are those that occur naturally in your area or region. Native species of plants have adapted to the natural and physical characteristics specific to their areas, such as soil, climate, and rainfall. Having plants that are native to your area is extremely beneficial. Here are just a few benefits of having native plants in your yard.

1) Native plants are adapted to local soils and climates. They generally require less watering and fertilizing than non-natives. Who doesn’t like to save a few bucks on their water bill during those hot summer months?

2) Native plants are often more resistant to insects and disease. This means they are less likely to need pesticides. This is good news for both you and the environment. Let’s be honest, the fewer harmful chemicals we add to this world the better it is for all of us.

3) Using native plants in your landscape also helps preserve the balance and beauty of the natural ecosystem. In other words, as more land is being destroyed for commercial and residential growth, the land is being cleared of native plants. When you plant native plants, you are taking steps in keeping these plants from the endangered species list.

4) Best of all, local and migratory birds are accustomed to using native plants for food, protection, and nesting. Wildlife species evolve with the landscape that is around them; therefore, they use native plants as their habitat. If you plant it, they will come.

A male Dickcissel perches in a field of wild flowers
Dickcissel and Flowers

Now that you know the benefits, let’s go over HOW to go native. With a little research and a careful selection of plants, anyone can have a native landscape that benefits the environment and provides a haven for native wildlife.

1) Research is important when you’re creating a native landscape with wildlife in mind. Before you start planting anything, you need to learn what plants you already have. Are they native or exotic? Should you keep them or replace them? Keep in mind that if you want to attract a wide variety of birds to your backyard, you’ll need to provide for their basic needs for food, water, and cover.

*Food – The types of foods birds eat vary throughout the year. They include insects, spiders, acorns, and other nuts, seeds, fruits, and nectar. I will go into more detail in an upcoming post.

*Cover – Birds require cover for nesting, resting, protection from predators, and avoiding bad weather.

*Water – Birds require water year-round and drink from various man-made sources. They are especially drawn to moving water.

2) Designing your new and improved yard is the fun part. Make sure you consider the needs of the birds. Meeting these needs might require an assortment of trees, bushes, plants, and flowers. Don’t overlook the addition and placement of a variety of feeders and nest boxes. Don’t forget about your water feature.

3) Start planting. Going Native can be done in baby steps; you don’t have to convert your entire yard all at once. Any piece of your yard that you convert back to native plants can help offset the loss of habitat from development and stop the spread of invasive plants. Living in Texas, I chose a variety of sage bushes. I also have a Flame Acanthus which the bees and hummingbirds love. It is also called The Hummingbird Bush and one of their frequent dining stops in my backyard. Texas Lantana is another favorite as well as the Red Yucca.

You might be wondering why I’m so passionate about planting native plants. The answer to that question is simple. Because it works. I started going native about 5 years ago. I’ve also integrated a lot of feeders and designed my own water feature. Last year, I had nine new species of birds visit my backyard. This year, I’ve already had three. I’m living proof that going native, with the right combination of feeders and a water feature, will attract more species of birds to your backyard.

Most likely, you’ve never thought of your backyard as a wildlife preserve. Maybe it’s time you start looking at it differently. It’s our responsibility to ensure that this world is healthy and nurtured. One way of doing this is to have a landscape that will benefit the local ecosystem and an environment that attracts native insects and animals.

A male American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) eats seeds from dead cone flowers.
Goldfinch and Cone Flowers

If this is your first time visiting my website or reading one of my blog posts, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Please subscribe here so you can receive updates on the next blog posts on Backyard Birding. You will also receive occasional discounts and newsletters. Please share my blog and galleries with family and friends! Remember to follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and always strive to leave places better than you found them.

Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view.


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