On this Christmas Eve day of giving when so many people, including me, are dashing about for a few little last minute gifts, I’m taking time to celebrate the gift of birds and to think of ways to give back to them.

Here in snowy Missoula, all the resident birds know full well how to survive the winter. For my favorite, the kingfisher, we can help best by preserving clean, fish-filled waterways with trees for perching and banks for nesting. For others, we can offer them a little more comfort and joy with delicious black oil sunflower seeds and suet in a backyard feeder.

Evening Grosbeak on sunflower feeder (public domain photo)

Then, when it comes to truly providing for birds nearby, go native! Winter is a great time for scheming on native plant additions to your yard that will give birds amazing nutrition, hiding and nesting places. (Looking for a last minute gift? Buy Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home for inspiration and practical ideas!)

As part of  looking back at 2015, I’d like to give thanks to the native plant and bird gardeners I met in my writing for National Audubon’s bird-friendly community program.  Each person has taken on the challenge of planting natives for birds to create a haven that gives hope to our birds and contributes to the larger quilt of bird habitats that people are piecing together along our migratory flyways..

My thanks to Sue and Mike Daugherty in La Grande, Oregon, who have transformed their front,back, and side yard into an oasis that has attracted  more than 100 bird species since 1988.(And my appreciation, too, for Sue’s featured photo of a northern flicker in their winter yard).

Sue Daugherty in her bird-friendly yard in La Grande, Oregon

My thanks go to Nicole Hamilton in Waterford, Virginia. Walking with her in her hardwood forest backyard feels like entering the bird-filled tropics: so rich and lush!

Nicole Hamilton’s wild yard is filled with native flowers, berry-producing shrubs, shady trees, and inviting walkways.

Thanks to Dan Scheiman of Little Rock, Arkansas, whose urban yard demonstrates how small spaces can be super-packed with favorite native plants for the birds he conserves in his word for Audubon.

Dan with oak tree -quote
Dan Scheiman of Little Rock stands in front of an oak tree and wildflowers that together support hundreds of kinds of tasty caterpillars that birds catch and feed to their young in summer.

Thanks to Terresa Carter of Baltimore who takes the “small is beautiful” concept to heart. Even in a very small back patio in the city, she has layered native plants vertically on walls and in pots with outstanding results. Hummingbirds and more find her yard as if drawn by a magnetic force.

Terresa Carter-bird-friendly
Terresa Carter of Baltimore shows her watering system and hanging pot strategy for her bird-friendly patio that combines native plants and some kitchen vegges and herb plants too.

My final note of appreciation is to every bird in the world that reminds us every day of the miraculous magical world we are so fortunate to inhabit.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul.”  

-Emily Dickinson

Belted Kingfisher female, Morro Bay
Belted Kingfisher perched on sailing mast in Morro Bay, California- by Marina Richie