Habitat is the total environment in which living things exist -- the home, the natural abode. To have more birds, we must see that they have a suitable habitat. This means providing food, water, cover in which to nest, rear young and escape enemies and sever weather, and any special things the species may need. When wildlife needs are provided naturally, it is referred to as habitat. Good habitat is essential for attracting birds. Feeders and bird houses (artificial devices) merely enhance good habitat and are no substitute for it.
Most homes -- whether urban, suburban or rural -- have trees, shrubbery, flowers and lawn. Space is usually at a premium in city or suburban lots. Yet the space available can be used to attract and hold many species of birds. Wildlife biologists know that maximum wildlife populations occur where two or more types of cover meet. This is known as edge effect.
Plan and plant the yard by using shrubs and trees attractive to birds for providing shade, foundation planting, border planting and screening. This pattern of planting usually duplicates the woodland-edge effect and provides suitable habitat for canopy, under story and ground species of birds.
Try to provide for the year-round needs of birds. Plant some evergreens which offer a place to feed and cover against severe winter weather. Dense evergreens also are good escape cover. Some winter birds feed on the seeds hidden in the cones of several evergreens.
Trees are valuable to birds as sources of food for certain periods during the year. Juneberry fruits in June, and provides fruit throughout the early summer. Those providing summer food include wild black cherry, choke cherry, wild red cherry, mulberry, black gum and hackberry. The hackberry tree is also a good food source well into the winter. Fall food sources include hawthorn, crabapple, sassafras, mountain ash, flowering dogwood and beechnuts -- and the oaks for their acorns. American holly is a winter food source, as are birch trees for their buds, and tulip trees and box elders for their seed, which are retained into winter. Since many trees are valuable as food sources for short periods of time, a wide variety of trees is needed to appeal to a variety of birds.
The best escape cover, which is also used extensively for nesting by some species is a tangle of briars -- multiflora rose, greenbrier, blackberry and other brambles. These briars also provide food at one time or another.
Many native Ohio shrubs are useful for attracting birds. Flowering dogwood and all the shrubby dogwoods are valuable as food sources. Moist locations are good for winterberry, elderberry and spicebush. All the fruiting viburnums -- maple leaf, arrowwood, highbush, cranberry, black haw, and nanny berry -- are highly desirable for their fall fruits. Vines such as wild grapes, bittersweet, greenbrier and woodbine provide food, cover and beauty in the yard.
Blueberry and cotoneaster are good hedge plants that also provide food. Honeysuckle is good for summer berries that attract the fruit eaters. Hazelnut provides nuts without taking up much space. Mulberry trees attract birds during their long fruiting season.
Even flowers may contribute to the variety of birds present. Hummingbirds are attracted to bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, four-o'clock, gladiolus, hibiscus, honeysuckle, butterfly weed,nasturtium, trumpet vine and zinnia, to name only the most attractive. Some other birds occasionally feed on nectar.
In addition, garden flower seeds attract many birds. Mourning doves, cardinals, towhees, brown thrashers and song sparrows are attracted to the seeds of batchelor's button, bell flower, columbine, cosmos, marigolds and phlox.