Backyard Bird Care
6 steps


6 STEPS to turn your yard into a Sanctuary for Birds

brochure, posters and more!






Birds and chemicals don't mix.

Here is additional information on protecting birds from pesticides, provided by the staff at the American Bird Conservancy (

Turn Your Backyard into a Sanctuary for Birds
Many chemicals can be toxic to wildlife. Pesticides, in particular, can be harmful to wild birds. In addition to killing birds, pesticides can also reduce breeding success, impair a bird's ability to migrate, and lead to physical deformities in chicks. However many insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are marketed for home and garden use. Below are some guidelines to help to limit the harmful impact of chemicals on birds and other wildlife.

Select native plants to grow in your garden. Native plants are well suited to the local climate and are more resistant to disease and pests, therefore requiring less maintenance and the use of fewer pesticides. In addition, nativeplants provide valuable food, cover and breeding habitat that will attract birds and other wildlife to your yard.

Be tolerant.
Accept some damage from insects as a normal part of your garden. Insects are part of the natural ecosystem and provide important food for birds, frogs, dragonflies, bats, etc. Insects also serve as pollinators for flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Target specific pests.
Before applying any chemicals make sure that you correctly identify the problem. For example, spraying an insecticide on a plant that is being damaged by a fungus will not correct the problem and can kill beneficial insects. Online resources or a local garden retailer can help you correctly identify the pest or problem and select the best treatment. If you must use a chemical select one that targets the specific pest. Broad spectrum pesticides will impact many species, not just the problem pest.

Choose the least toxic treatment.
In many cases, the problem can be treated without the use of chemicals by adjusting your care and maintenance procedures (frequency of watering, timing of fertilizer applications, etc.), or by moving a plant to a different location (one with more sun or shade or with more or less moisture). Or you may be able to effectively reduce the problem by pruning affected areas or using a strong spray of water to dislodge pests from a plant. If you must use chemicals, select those that are only effective for a limited timeframe to reduce the amount of chemical in the environment.

Target your pesticide use.
Only apply the chemical where it is needed. Spot treat the areas where the problem exists. If spraying a flowering plant with an insecticide, spray only the leaves and avoid the flowers which attract beneficial pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Do not use rat poisons.
Rodent and vole populations can be safely eliminated by using snap traps or live-catch traps baited with apple or peanut butter. Rodents or voles that eat rat poison become sick, but do not die immediately. Predators and scavengers often eat the sick rodents resulting in secondary poisonings. Thousands of animals including hawks, owls, foxes, snakes and even dogs and cats die each year as a result of secondary poisoning from rat poisons.

Eliminate mosquito breeding areas in and around your yard.
Spraying for mosquitoes does little to reduce mosquito populations and can have harmful effects on birds and people. To prevent mosquito reproduction, eliminate sources of standing water, unclog gutters, aerate ponds and change bird bath water every three days. If you have areas of standing water than can not be eliminated apply a less toxic larvicide, such as Bacillus thuringensus, to kill mosquitoes before they hatch.

Before applying fertilizers and other chemicals to your lawn have your soil tested.
Contact your state's cooperative agricultural extension office. They generally do soil testing quickly and inexpensively and can tell you exactly what your lawn needs. If they determine that your lawn needs fertilizer, use a slow-release fertilizer, preferably in the autumn, since this will maintain a more natural soil chemistry and can help prevent pest outbreaks.

Minimize or move to eliminate your use of lawn chemicals.
Applying several inches of mulch around plants is a safe and effective method for reducing weeds. Lawn and garden chemicals can enter nearby streams and waterways, killing aquatic vegetation and impacting stream ecology.

Always follow the directions carefully.
When applying a lawn or garden chemical, always read the label carefully and apply the minimum amount required. Avoid using chemicals near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest. Remove or cover bird baths, bird feeders, bird houses and butterfly houses before applying chemicals. Excess application of chemicals may result in runoff into local waterways.

Dispose of the chemical containers safely.
Follow the directions on the product label for proper disposal of all chemical containers and for proper cleaning of equipment. Never dump excess chemicals into storm drains.

Online Resources:

Landscaping with native plants
Pesticide info for consumers
National Wildlife Federation
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Audubon Flyer
Audubon Guide to Home Pesticides
National Coalition Against Misuse of Pesticides
The National Pesticides Telecommunications Network, call 800-858-7378
Environmental Protection Agency's Biopesticides site