Ground cover is vitally important to backyard birds, more so than many birders realize. At the old house, the only cover I was able to have was a brush pile in the backyard and some widely spaced mugo in the front yard; not nearly enough to make ground-feeding birds feel secure. As a result, I rarely had any ground-feeding birds make appearances.
This house is a different story entirely. The landscaping is mature, including plenty of low shrubs and ground cover - too mature, in some places, which is a problem I plan to work on this spring and summer. In the meantime, however, the birds enjoy it, and I enjoy their company. One such visitor a few weeks ago was a spotted towhee, a large, colorful sparrow that had discovered the cache of sunflower hearts I toss outside my office window periodically - right underneath a low bush that provides a safe, sheltered feeding spot. While the bird didn't stay for long, its hopping, scratching behavior was clearly evident in the disturbed soil, and the brief glimpse I caught showed off its red eye, rusty flanks, and striking plumage.
Other birds have taken advantage of the cover as well - dark-eyed juncos were frequent guests throughout the winter (and only migrated away in the last few days), and the house sparrows are year-round visitors, as are the California quail, though recently they've dispersed for nesting. I can hardly wait to see what birds might be spotted next - whether they have spots on their plumage or not.