Wherever you live, be it the city or a swamp, there will be a unique habitat for birds. Birds of a different feather choose different locales for their nests.
Most birds that belong to the same family prefer similar habitat. Oh, there are a few independent sorts (unlike other members of the Thrush family, the robin spends a lot of time on lawns), and plenty of room for variation, but in general, the same kinds of surroundings will satisfy nearly all members of a family.
The wild places and open spaces near you, such as parks, cemeteries, or golf courses, will determine which birds are apt to call your place home. To get a hint of the possibilities, start by taking a look at what’s around you.
• Live near a city park or greenspace? You can expect to attract birds that seek the gracious old trees, dense shrubbery, and green lawns that are usually part of a park. That may mean an influx of orioles, tanagers, vireos, titmice, woodpeckers, and other birds.
• If your house or neighborhood is near farm fields or grasslands, you can count on coaxing in some of those birds of the fields and hedgerows. Meadowlarks, quail, pheasants, red-headed or red-bellied woodpeckers, field sparrows, grasshopper sparrows, buntings, and a host of blackbirds may come calling.
• Is that a woods at the end of your block? Your chances of tempting thrushes, vireos, warblers, grosbeaks, towhees, chickadees, titmice, kinglets, and even wild turkeys just went up.
• If there’s a lake, large pond, river, or creek within walking distance, you may spot some surprising guests in your own backyard. Yellow warblers, cedar waxwings, swallows, purple martins, flycatchers, and red-winged or yellow-headed blackbirds may check out your appealing yard.
• Nothing much but roadways or parking lots in your part of town? Don’t despair. The shrubby landscaping put in along highways, in parking lots, and in commercial or industrial areas also attracts birds. Then it’s just a hop, skip, and flap of the wings for these native sparrows, common yellowthroats, mimic thrushes, and other birds of the bushes to find their way to your yard.
• Yards, yards, and more yards, on every side? Not a problem. Shade trees attract orioles, tanagers, vireos, and grosbeaks; lilacs (Syringu vulgaris) and other common shrubs are perfect homes for cardinals, mockingbirds, robins, and song sparrows, among others. Wrens also like the civilized life. And all that open space may make your place a good site for nest boxes for swallows or purple martins.
Who lives near you? What habitat do they like?
Adapted from Bird-by-Bird Gardening: The Ultimate Guide to Bringing in Your Favorite Birds Year After Year, by Sally Roth (Rodale, 2006).