Portlanders are lucky to live in a city with so much green space. Our combination of rivers, parks and mild climate allows Portland to host a vast array of birds and wildlife, and many will visit or even nest in local yards given a few simple provisions.
Use native plants as much as possible. Native plants evolved together with birds and the insects they feed on, so native plants present the best possible garden addition for supporting wildlife.
Birds are attracted to areas where the three basic needs of Cover, Food and Water are met.
Start with Native Plants:
Incorporating as many native plants as possible provides for a bird’s two most basic needs, food and shelter.
- Natives to attract hummingbirds.
- Oregon Grape - Mahonia
- Crabapple - Malus Fusca
- Cascara - Rhamnus purshiana
- Salmonberry - Rubus
- Snowberry - Symphoricarpos
- Our Natives Page
Birds tend to appear in places where they feel secure. Security, from a bird's point-of-view is all about finding good vantage points from which to survey for predators (domestic cats and hawks for example) and being able to navigate from high to low places without being noticed.
Creation of a tiered, multi-level environment will be very inviting. Survey your space to see if any of these areas are lacking. Add a tree if you need height, large or low shrubs if they aren't present.
Tall trees: 25 feet or higher
Dense eye-level shrubs: 6 - 12 feet
Low shrubs: 1 - 4 feet
Birds eat a varied diet of berries, seeds, nuts, grains, insects and nectars that changes with their seasonal needs. Some birds need sugary berries during nesting season and fatty nuts in winter. Your yard will be more habitable if you provide a variety of foods year round.
In the fall, leave the leaves! Leaves, spent flowers and hollow stems provide places for insects important to feeding birds can regenerate.
Add plants that provide berries, nuts & seeds:
(Follow the links to read more about the selections below.)
Plants to provide fruits:
- Strawberry Tree - Arbutus unedo
- Dogwood - Cornus
- Crabapple - Malus fusca
- Chokecherry - Aronia
- Barberry - Berberis
- Holly - Ilex
- Lingonberry, Blueberry & Huckleberry - Vaccinium
- Sweetbox - Sarcococca
- Firethorn - Pyracantha
Plants to provide nuts:
- Oak - Quercus
- Chestnut - Castanea
- Hazelnut - Corylus
Plants to provide seeds:
- Sunflower - Helianthus
- Pennisetum - Fountain Grass
- Amaranth - Amaranthus
Add flowering plants to provide nectar:
- Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria
- Crape Myrtle - Lagerstroemia
- Lilac - Syringa
- Azalea - Rhododendron
- California Wild Lilac - Ceanothus
- Heather - Erica, Daboecia & Calluna
- Andromeda Pieris
- Flowering Currant - Ribes
- Oregon Grape - Mahonia
- Seven Sons Flower - Heptacodium
- Sourwood - Oxydendron arboreum
- Snowbell - Styrax
- Silverbell - Halesia
- Giant Hyssop - Agastache
- Red Hot Poker - Kniphofia
- Daylily - Hemerocallis
- Speedwell - Veronica
- Cape Fuchsia - Phygelius
It should be noted that plants grown to provide fruit and berries for human consumption will also be attractive to birds. Protect these plants with bird netting, reflective bird scare tape or motion sensing sprinklers.
Install feeders to provide a variety of seeds, grains & fruits.
Bird baths make great garden ornaments and are also useful to birds for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths should be placed among low-level cover plants rather than out in the open (the middle of your lawn) so they are more secure while bathing, and cleaned regularly.
Ponds and fountains are also good sources for water. Birds can misjudge the depth of water, so ponds should have wire mesh placed just below the surface. A protruding rock or driftwood will also provide a safe landing spot.
FACTS: SEED & FEEDERS
Feeders attract a wide variety of birds and can keep those wintering in your neighborhood healthy during the coldest weather. Install different types of feeders to attract different kinds of birds
Clean feeders every time they are refilled.
SEED BUYING GUIDE
Cracked corn – Jays, Woodpeckers
Fruit - Apples for Robins, Orange slices & dried fruit for Western Tanagers
Small grains & seed mix – Blackbird, Towhee
Suet – Chick a dee, Jay, Warblers, Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhee
Sunflower – Chick a dee, Finches, Jays, Woodpeckers
Thistle – Finches
Unsalted nuts – Chick a dee, Junco, Woodpecker, Jay
Nectar – 1 part sugar to 4 parts boiling water cooled completely for Hummingbirds, year round – food coloring is unnecessary & never substitute honey for sugar.
House feeders and Sunflower feeders are good for large seed like cracked corn & sunflower seeds.
Tube Feeders hold small seed mixes and thistle and are available with wire mesh to keep squirrels out.
Platform feeders hold fruit, corncobs and other large treats.
Suet cages hold fatty suet blocks that birds love during the cold of winter.
Nectar feeders with sugar water attract hummingbirds all year.
Be sure to keep feeders clean and seed fresh so that birds are eating healthy food. Nesting season is a good time to remove, clean and repair most feeders. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every time they are refilled.
Feeders will attract more birds if they are placed in locations that provide cover so that birds feel more secure while eating.