As the summer wanes and the fall rains come, our local animals are preparing for the winter. While some birds leave the premises for the winter season and fly south to warmer climes, other birds stay around, fluffing their feathers and seeking shelter from the winter storms. You can make your garden a haven for these winter birds, and it’s not all that difficult. You just have to do some gardening for birds.

First, neglect some of that fall garden cleaning. Wild birds love wild seeds, and by keeping the seedheads on the plants, you’ll provide a rich source of forage for winter birds. Remember those sunflowers that you planted for their enormous, lofty flowers? Recall those coneflowers (Echinacea) that bloomed so beautifully this year?

These are favorites of winter birds. Birds also love the seeds of cardoon, lavender, fennel, and plants in the aster family. When it comes to perennials, one highlight of the fall forage season is the rose hip: it’s an excellent tonic for fall and winter birds. Even when it snows, the seeds of the plants may fall onto the snow, feeding your winter birds.

Other birds prefer to eat bugs. By growing cover crops or mulching your garden, you’ll create habitat for invertebrates, and as long as the birds can access your garden beds, you’ll find them pulling at your mulch and pecking in your cover crops, munching some the bugs inside.

Your birds need warm, fluffy feathers to stay warm. If you’re in a cold area, a heated bath gives birds the ability to drink and to clean off their feathers. Give a feathered friend some shelter, too. Growing evergreen trees and shrubs in your garden helps birds find shelter from the wind, rain, and snow. If you have an older tree that you’re going to cut down, consider leaving part of the trunk as a wildlife tree. Birds such as woodpeckers and chickadees seek out these old trees, nesting in holes and hiding in the gaps under the thick bark.

Are you ready to greet our winter birds with a fall feast?