Bird Friendly Communities

Geese by Hillary Eggers

Native Plants for Birds

Unlike humans, birds carry their eating utensils with them—their bills, or beaks. But can you imagine going to the restaurant and not being able to eat anything on the menu because it’s the wrong size or shape to fit in your bill? That’s the case for many of our birds. Our changing landscape means that the fruits, seeds, and insects that birds co-evolved with are no longer available because they’ve been replaced with non-native ornamentals or even invasive species.

You can take action!


We want to change that one yard at a time! By planting natives that give birds the right food at the right time, you can create a wildlife oasis in your neighborhood.

Native plants are good for people, too. After they’re established, they don’t need as much water, fertilizer, or gas to maintain. That means more money stays in your wallet—and you’ll have more time to kick back and watch the birds.

Want to get started? Get inspired by visiting our Leon Levy Native Garden.

Our partners at National Audubon have created an online database of native plants. Check it out!

Avian Architecture

From nests that are tiny cups woven of lichen and spider webs to one-ton structures constructed of branches high in the treetops, birds are amazing architects. But development and other human pressure are decreasing the places birds can nest and raise their young.

You can take action!


The first thing you can do to help our feathered architects is to leave snags and dead trees that don’t pose a safety hazard. Many trees can stand tall long after they’ve died. This creates a fine nesting habitat for cavity nesters like woodpeckers, but also Eastern Bluebirds and Black-capped Chickadees, the spectacular American Kestrel, and a variety of owls.

You can also erect nest boxes in your yard for cavity nesters. Nest boxes are designed for specific species—from the size and shape of the box itself, roof overhangs, to the size and shape of the hole. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project NestWatch has a fantastic guide to selecting or building the perfect nest box.

You’ll also want to make sure that your nest box is in the right spot and up by mid-March in the northeast. You’ll need to consider how high your box is, and how close it is to other boxes.

And, finally, you want to be a good landlord. Protect your boxes, and your tenants, from predators like snakes and raccoons. You should also plan to clean your boxes out after your tenants have fledged, too!  

Send us your snag and nest box photos and their feathered tenants—and maybe you’ll see them posted here!

Lights Out

As if migrating thousands, if not tens of thousands of miles, wasn’t hard enough birds have to navigate around bridges, buildings, and communications towers as they travel between their wintering and breeding grounds. And when these structures are lit up at night they cause even more problems—bright nighttime lights make birds disoriented. The light causes some birds to careen off their path and circle the light source until they land exhausted and fall prey to urban hazards like cats or raccoons. Other birds will collide directly into lit windows.

You can take action!


Turn off unnecessary lights at home, and encourage building managers to do the same. Not only will it protect migrating birds, but it’ll save money and protect the climate, too.

Close curtains, blinds, and shades to block interior lights.

Use motion-detected lights for both interiors and exteriors.

Use full cut-off exterior lights. These outdoor lights focus the light downward where it is needed, rather than to the sides or up. The International Dark Sky Association has a list of outdoor fixtures that meet their seal of approval.

Work with your local municipality and state to adopt bird friendly lighting ordinances. In 2015, New York State’s Governor signed a bill into law requiring state- owned and managed buildings to go dark at night during peak migration.