Sooner or later, every backyard birder realizes that if they want to attract more birds, they’ll have to step up their game. Bird feeders only get you so far, even if you offer an array of seeds and styles. A truly bird-friendly yard takes the right trees and plants, as well as places for nesting, bathing and drinking, and shelter. It all takes some effort, but the rewards are truly great. A bird-friendly yard also attracts and supports pollinators, uses water responsibly, and helps protect the ecosystem. Ready to attract more birds but aren’t sure where to start? Always looking for new ideas? Check out the new joint citizen science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy: Habitat Network.
Habitat Network builds on prior programs (like YardMap), but is a much more robust experience for the user. Many of the citizen science projects you already know and love, like eBird and NestWatch, are automatically integrated. Provide information about the elements in your yard already, and the program offers specific tips for improvement. “It’s a great way to get to know your yard better. You are really the expert about what’s going on around your house or neighborhood, and we want to tap into that expertise in a way that can benefit the scientific community,” said Rhiannon Crain, project leader for Habitat Network at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Looking to connect with other birders and gardeners in your area? Habitat Network also serves as a social network for birders and gardeners. You can browse nearby yard maps, leave comments, and look for ideas. Over time, scientists at the Lab and Conservancy will use the data provided by users to better understand interactions between humans and wildlife in a variety of habitat settings. “Science shows us that small changes in the way properties are managed can make a huge impact towards improving our environment,” said Megan Whatton, project manager for Habitat Network at The Nature Conservancy. “Creating and conserving nature within cities, towns and neighborhoods are key to global conservation.”
The best way to see how the Habitat Network can benefit you as you work to create a bird-friendly yard is just to try it out. If you were already using YardMap, your information is all saved, and now you’ll have access to a whole new array of features. If you’re new to it, follow the simple 3-step process to outline your property, map the basic habitats, and then document and describe the individual features of your yard. Along the way, use the Planning Tool to see what you’re already doing right and where you can improve. I love the feature that allows you to zero in on the actions you need to take to achieve goals, like supporting birds. You can then set those goals for yourself, and make plans to follow up.
Ready to get started? Click here to visit Habitat.Network. As you map your yard and look for ways to improve, remember to use the extensive resources here at Birds & Blooms too. We’ve got tips for the plants and trees you need, the best bird feeders and nesting boxes, and much more. With all these materials at your fingertips, your bird-friendly yard is about to become better than ever!