Bird Gardening in a Small Backyard

Many Californians, particularly
those close to the coast, live on postage stamp-sized lots. Planting trees are out of the question and
may even be prohibited by homeowners association restrictions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t offer birds
shelter, food sources, and nesting sites.

First, look around you. Is there an overgrown holly across the
street, a tangle of berries growing in the alley, or an enormous palm tree next
door? Get to know your neighbors and their
bird populations, and plant something that will supplement the wildlife already
living near you.

Consider devoting a small, sunny
area to seed-producing wildflowers and other annuals. One of my neighbors marked out a six foot square in her tiny
front yard, fenced it with small white pickets, and placed her birdfeeders on a
post in the center. Any seed that drops
is allowed to sprout within the confines of the fence, and she scatters the
seeds of poppy, clarkia, and cosmos there for spring bloom and autumn seeds.

Even container gardeners can
encourage birds: penstemon, fuchsia,
and salvia will grow happily in containers and attract hummingbirds, and even a
half-barrel planted with annual flowers will provide an enticing seed source.

Roses, junipers, manzanitas, and
elderberries are all good reliable shrubs that produce berries (or rose hips)
and provide shelter. An ornamental
cherry or plum tree, a dwarf lemon tree, or even a small evergreen like a dwarf
spruce will provide cover and potential nesting sites.