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Gardening for Birds | Cover

Plant Layers

Wildlife need shelter from bad weather and hiding places from predators. Cover takes many forms: Trees, dense shrubs, tall grasses, rock and brush piles, hollow logs, a stack of firewood. The more choices you offer, the more inviting your yard will be.

The vegetative structure checklist:

  • Native grasses provide cover from predators and winter insulation.
  • Include plants of differing heights and foliage.
  • Include a combination of mostly deciduous trees, shrubs, and understory plants.
  • Large trees, dead or alive, provide wildlife with vantage points.



Messy is Best

Overgrown grassy reeds, dried flower stalks, and shrubby fruit-filled branches provide food, cover, and protection in the fall and winter for birds.

Best ways to encourage a messy garden:

  • Leave your leaves on the ground.
  • Allow dried flower heads to stay standing.
  • Let grass grow tall and seed.
  • Build a brush pile with fallen branches.
  • Bare earth patches benefit dust-bathing birds.
  • Don’t use chemicals.
  • Leave snags (standing dead trees) in place.
  • Delay garden clean-up until spring, after several 50 degree F days



At Least Two

Birds need at least two places to find shelter from weather and predators:

  • Wooded area
  • Bramble patch
  • Ground cover
  • Rock pile or wall.
  • Cave
  • Roosting box (not for rearing of young but for multiple cavity-nesting birds to shelter at once)
  • Evergreens
  • Brush or log pile
  • Dead trees, standing or fallen
  • Meadow or prairie
  • Dense shrubs/thicket
  • Water garden or pond