Is your yard a flight path, never a landing zone? That can happen when it holds little or nothing to entice birds to drop by and linger. They have little time to waste — their days are busy with the need to find food, cover and good nesting places. So, turn your yard into a destination, where birds will come and stay. Some things are quick and easy to do. Others take some time, but persistence and patience pays off. Follow our suggestions and you’ll be watching birds full-time!
Hang bird feeders. Fill them with seeds, nuts and fruits that will attract your favorite birds, such as white millet for sparrows, safflower for cardinals, peanuts for jays and woodpeckers, nectar for hummingbirds and orange slices for orioles. The greater the variety, the more bird species you’ll attract. If you prefer to offer only one kind, then black-oil sunflower seeds, in the shell or chipped, will appeal to the most species of birds. Place feeders 10 to 12 feet away from shrubbery, so birds will be safe from hidden predators. Birds and their favorite foods
Offer water for drinking and bathing. Place a birdbath on a pedestal, hang one or even place one on the ground (or do all three). Place ground birdbaths away from places where predators can hide. Be sure to keep them clean and the water fresh (see how), even in winter, to help prevent diseases.
Numerous bird species, including waxwings, mockingbirds, bluebirds and orioles, eat fruit. So, plant trees that offer delicious berries, such as hawthorn, mulberry, serviceberry, crabapple and cherry. Fruit trees also attract insects, a food source for virtually all insect-eating birds. If possible, let fallen fruit lay, as birds will feed on it there, as well.There are trees to suit any yard size, soil condition and climate. Include evergreen trees, such as Eastern Redcedar, conifers and spruces, for protection from predators and summer heat and winter cold. see tree list
Plant shrubs that provide fruit, such as dogwood, chokecherry and hackberry. Select a variety of shrubs that will have fruit ripening at different times, so something is always available for birds. see shrub list
Plant seed-bearing flowers, such as coneflowers, coreopsis, aster and sunflowers. see plant list
The food, plants, shelter and safety you offer birds will not only make them want to visit your yard regularly, but also nest there. Birds are particular, they don’t nest just anywhere. So the goal is to provide everything they’d seek in nature.
Different species have different requirements. Hang birdhouses appropriate for the kinds of birds you want to use them. They also must be placed at suitable heights and locations. American Robins, for instance, like to nest on a shelf and House Wrens need a birdhouse with a larger entrance hole than chickadees. Secure birdhouses away from direct sun. If placed on a pole, use a baffle below it to prevent predators from climbing up. Select birdhouses that are easy to clean and well ventilated. Bird species and where to hang their birdhouses
Offer special nesting materials
Different birds use different materials for their nests and they also construct their nests in their own particular way. Nests may be made of twigs, leaves, grass clippings, straw, plant stems, pine needles and other matter in the yard. Some birds use mud or add small stones to their nests. In early spring through early summer, you can add to their choices by offering extra nest-building materials. Hang suitable materials over trim limbs in visible areas. Loosely fill mesh bags with soft materials — make sure the mesh has large holes so the materials can be easily pulled out.
Ideas for nesting materials
Pieces of yarn (2-3 inches long)
Hair from your dog’s brush; loosely separate the hair If you’re a hair stylist, take home some hair clippings Cotton balls in a bowl
Mop string (clean) cut in short lengths (2-3 inches long)
*Top photo: Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis. (Richard Hurd / Flickr; cc by 2.0)