Nov 23, 2015 | Featured Web Article

The Value of Brush Piles

BWD editor Bill Thompson, III, and his son Liam construct a brush pile in the backyard of their house in Marietta, OH.
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If the weather gets harsh in your part of the continent, you can give birds shelter, a safe place to eat, and a place to hide from predators with a backyard brush pile. Simply pile up sticks, fallen branches, and even your holiday tree when you're done with it, to form a brushy tangle. Add raked-up leaves or bunches of grass/weeds/cornstalks to the windward side for additional protection from the wind and precipitation. By leaving an open space on the ground in the center of your brush pile, you create a protected feeding area of ground-foraging birds such as towhees, juncos, sparrows, wrens, and others who are less likely to visit a hanging feeder. This is an ideal place to scatter mixed seed, cracked corn, and sunflower hearts. When a sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawk makes a pass through your yard, the brush pile offers readily accessible cover for the songbirds at your feeders. This bit safe-harbor habitat will also make your feeders more appealing to woodland birds, especially if your feeding station is located in the open. The brush pile becomes an island of safety, which the birds will take advantage of going to and from your feeders.

About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.


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The Latest Comments

  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021