When you're choosing trees, shrubs and flowers for a bird garden, try to think like a bird: finches, woodpeckers, chickadees, cardinals and nuthatches are looking for bugs, seeds and berries. They are attracted to gardens with plants of different sizes and textures. They need tree limbs to perch on, leaf litter to turn over and scatter, and lots of nooks and niches. Birds like hedges and shrubbery; wide-open lawns attract few birds.
"Diversity is important for wildlife, and it's just good garden design," says David Mizejewski, a National Wildlife Federation naturalist and backyard bird-watcher. "The best way to help the birds is to really focus on the planting. Then supplement with a feeder."
My urban garden is a little bit woodsy, so it attracts a lot of birds. It is strictly informal, but habitat gardens can be any style. "It's totally fine if you want a neat, organized garden," Mizejewski says. "Even in a rigid, formal structure, your garden can still feed the birds."
The NWF's backyard habitat program has certified more than 120,000 gardens - including mine - as official habitats that provide food, shelter, water, cover, and places for wildlife to raise their young. Make them welcome in yours too.