Providing Shelter and Cover to Attract Birds to the North Coast Pacific Garden

Birds rely on plants to provide shelter from the elements as well as cover from predators. Shelter may mean relief from midday sun or a place to roost for the night - or it may mean refuge from soaking rain, biting wind, or freezing cold. Almost anything leafy will serve for shade or an overnight stay, but it takes a heavier canopy of foliage to shield against harsher elements. In the coastal mountains, needle-leafed evergreen trees and shrubs are a must for birds that stay in the area. Even in milder climates at the coast, birds appreciate groups of dense, broad-leafed evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines for shelter against rain and wind.

Birds seek different kinds of cover depending on which predators they're evading. Potential hawk prey (hawks are those tall birds that sit on lamp posts and tree tops, looking for anything that's smaller and moves) often find enough protection on a convenient tree limb. Thick shrubbery provides a good hideaway from a feline hunter, as long as it's open enough for a quick entry by the bird yet dense enough to foil or slow down the cat. Be sure to plant shrubs far enough away that they don't become the cat's cover for a sneak attack on the birdbath or feeder.

Thorns offer an asset to any foliaged hideaway for birds, since they deter predators. Even better than a single shrub is a grouping that approximates a natural thicket or tangle.

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