Landscape Blog Series: Winter Birding

The McDonald Garden Center Landscape Design and Installation division is one of the cornerstones of our organization. Landscapes are a way for gardeners to express themselves, and their space, while enjoying all the outdoors has to offer. For National Birding Day, we consulted one of our expert designers, Lisa Hulme, to tell us about how winter birding can be a great way to add features to your landscape as well as invite more feathered friends in your garden. 


Blog by McDonald Garden Center Landscape Designer, Lisa Hulme. 

When my children were younger, they used to watch Mary Poppins often. One of the scenes I always remember is when an old lady is imploring all the people passing by to feed the birds. It was such a tender reminder that little gestures of kindness can even be extended to our feathered neighbors. If we want to see birds, we have to provide the shelter and food sources that will keep them in our landscapes. 


When designing, I always remember to consider the silent partner in the process. I ask myself, "Will this design foster some type of life (shelter or food) for a bird that lives in this area?" If the answer is yes, then I feel everyone wins and my design is a success. I measure success by considering both the customer and the native wildlife that reside there. 


To involve winter birding more into your landscape, plant native trees and shrubs that birds like to feed on and nest in. For example: 

  • Berry-producing trees and shrubs provide the necessary fuel and fat sources for migratory birds to make it to their destinations. Serviceberry trees and Eastern Redbuds are great examples. 
  • Canopy trees like Red Oak are great sources of food for the birds. If you want a constant food source, consider planting in succession so that something is always producing a berry or seed. 


Most of us are aware of feeding the birds during the cold winter months by putting out seeds in feeders, but what about providing them a source of hydration as well? If you are going to put out food for the birds, consider adding a water feature to your landscape. By water feature I mean birdbaths! Just like us, birds need daily clean water. However, a birdbath filled once and then left can actually be a hazard for birds. Many diseases are carried through dirty birdbaths. It is my recommendation that a birdbath be thoroughly washed out each week with detergent and a small amount of bleach.


Some additional tips on birdbaths: 

● Consider shallow birdbaths with a gradual slope. 

● During snowy weather, bring hot water outside to unfreeze the birdbath

bowl; refresh with clean water.

● Purchase small ceramic birdbaths that detach from the bottom stand.

● Provide a few flat river rocks to put in the water so they have a place to

stand while drinking.


Although plant life seems to take a pause in the colder months, there is still plenty of gardening to do! For more information on landscape design and installation, please visit our landscape page here on our website. And for more information on winter birding, see the Garden Guru’s webinar here


Show me a person who shows kindness to the birds and I will show you a man’s character. This is the quiet, gentle and diligent person who makes a daily difference for the weakest among us.”

-Dalai Lama