Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Islands of Backyard Habitat

Enjoy the birds that visit your yard, and watch for a new arrivals as they migrate north, and perhaps you will see a new yard species, like an American Redstart (photos by Paul Konrad).
Every neotropical migrant, such as this stunning Western Tanager, relies on islands of habitat, perhaps even your yard.
Cedar Waxwings might appear in your yard during any month of the year, and they are always a welcome attraction when they do. Landscaping and feeding stations with access to water are essential elements for migrating and nesting birds.

Anything we do individually in the way of birdscaping, landscaping, and gardening helps to create our own little island of bird habitat. For migrating birds, as well as nesting birds, every inviting yard is important; in fact, every tree and scrub and flower garden counts, as do every bird house, or nest box if you prefer. Likewise, the food in every feeder counts, as does the variety of feeder foods at a feeding station; and every bird bath or water feature is invaluable. When our yards are combined with the trees and other landscaping elements in our neighborhoods it creates an even larger island of backyard habitat.

In that way, the bigger the reach of habitat in an area, the bigger the island becomes, or perhaps there is a chain of islands of habitat. When all the things each of us does for birds combines with the efforts of other property owners it adds up to provide millions of backyard habitats, along with office habitats, schoolyard habitats, landscaped church yards, city parks, and more.

That’s when our cities and towns become urban and suburban habitats, and we can’t underestimate the importance of the combined resources of cover, food, water, resting and nesting areas that benefit individual birds and a wealth of bird species. Our islands of habitat help to keep links viable between migration stopover points positioned between nesting and wintering ranges. Our efforts can’t be underestimated, yard after yard. In this way, as we act locally, but we are part of a much larger link, from backyard habitats to habitat islands expanding across the country, the continent, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond!

Your Yard is Important and Appreciated!

Spring migration is such an important time of the year, when all you have done for birds in your property really pays off in the form of the variety and number of birds that are attracted to your yard and benefit from the habitat mix. That includes new birds, and rare birds that only stopover once or twice a year, or every couple years – but it’s especially true for resident birds and nesting birds. Your yard is most important for birds that will stay for May, June, and July to nest nearby and visit daily; then bring their fledglings to your yard to benefit from everything you provide.

It’s all very important! Providing for vulnerable migrants and nesting birds is highly commendable, so be sure to give yourself credit as you enjoy the birds you have attracted as a benefactor. Take time to enjoy the birds, watch for them, appreciate them when they appear, drink in their beauty and their nature, and learn more about each species. Appreciate what you’ve done, take some photos, and celebrate that you are richer for the birds that surround you to add more life, songs, and surprises.

These beautiful days of May could be the best time of the year to appreciate your landscaping, your choice of feeders, the variety of foods you provide, along with the fresh water so necessary for birds. Really, the best of backyard birding is providing a total package for birds, season after season, and May after May.

Share your backyard birding experiences and photographs with The Birding Wire at