Inviting Mother Nature Into Your Own Backyard

By: Ross Latham

Everyone wants a beautiful yard to relax in after a hard days work, for visiting guests to enjoy, and to enrich and add beauty to the neighborhood one lives in. One of the best things one can do and certainly the one which creates the best balance between Man and Mother Nature is creating a yard that will invite the local birds and wildlife.

There are as many ways of going about this as there are yards. Each yard is individual, depending on the area and location it is in, the local wildlife, the conditions of the soil and environment, and of course what the person wants it to become. For any of these situations there are trees which are well suited for the environment, enhancing the landscape and, if well chosen, can attract birds all year long.

So, if all yards are different, where to start? Letís look a bit at one of the central points of a landscape: its trees. What trees will best suit your yard and welcome the birds?

You want a tree that will provide a) sufficient stability to hold a birdhouse, b) shade and c) the proper height for that bird.

As far as stability, for most trees this is not going to be a problem if they fit the size criteria Iím about to outline. But as a comment, there are a few birds who are attracted to a birdhouse nestled in the crook of a tree, like the Redwing Blackbirds and Robins. Most Ash, Elm, Maple or Oak trees will do, less so with Dogwood, Beech or Catalpa (though there are exceptions--a Copper Beech would be perfect for a birdhouse and make a great yard display). You want to take a look at the tree and ask how it will look when fully mature.

Now for shade you want a tree that will have a large spread. This is something you see in all of the trees I mentioned above.

The size of the tree should be between 10í minimum to a maximum of about 50í. There are some birds that prefer to nest as low to the ground as 5í, but most are going to fall within two categories, 5í to 15í or 10í to 20í.

Consider what kind of birds you want to make a home in your yard. Different birds need different habitats. What may be perfect for a Robin can drive a Purple Martin away. And where you might need a separate habitat for both of them, a Wren might do well in either. There are dozens of North American birds which will nest in a yard if given the proper habitat, so itís good to know a bit about the habitats that suit them.

Another important factor is location. If you put a Japanese Maple into a grove of White Oak Trees it might seem a little out of place. Same principle applies for selecting the tree for your yard--you want to look around and select a tree that fits with your local ecology. Also put a researcherís eye toward what birds naturally roost in in your area. Most tree nurseries can advise you on these points.

Once youíve found a tree that matches its surroundings and can attract the local wildlife, ensure it will grow up to be of the right size and shape, then youíre all set. Enjoy the brilliant new addition to your home. Mother nature will thank you.

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Ross Latham is owner of Big Trees Inc. ( in Snohomish, WA, one of the largest Seattle tree nurseries (see inventory at, specializing in tree transplanting. Visit us at

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