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Home » Resources » Riparian Ecology » Vegetation and Wildlife Habitat » Restoration Planting Design: Creating Wildlife Habitat » Design for birds

Design for birds

Black-headed Grosbeak and Yellow-breasted Chat

(Above) Black-headed Grosbeak and Yellow-breasted Chat

Overstory to Herbaceous Understory Edge

(Above) Overstory to Herbaceous Understory Edge

Very different plant communities can be placed adjacent to each other to attract multiple birds. The edge between two habitats, in this case the mixed riparian forest adjacent to a grassland, is often a site of increased diversity. This is in part because multiple birds will use the same habitat to obtain different resources. Warbling vireos, for example, nest in tall trees but forage in multiple layers, including low herbaceous plants. This low herbaceous layer is a common nesting location for Blue grosbeaks. Swainson’s hawks forage low over large grasslands, but nest in tall trees.

Overstory to Woody Understory Edge

(Above) Overstory to Woody Understory Edge

In the same way that edge habitats provide a range of resources to multiple birds, individual birds frequently select edges because they can find all their resources in one territory. Black-headed grosbeaks defend their territories by singing from perches high in the tallest canopies. Typically they nest in a lower mid or understory tree or shrub, and they forage in all of these layers, as well as in understory herbaceous layers.

Dense Willow Thicket with Widely Spaced Trees

(Above) Dense Willow Thicket with Widely Spaced Trees

Planting designs can use other tools to provide the structural and floristic requirements of bird habitat. In this example planting design, a dense thicket of willows and blackberry provides the well protected nesting habitat that is used by Yellow-breasted Chat. Adding occasional tall trees interspersed throughout the dense thicket provides singing perches that chats need.