How to attract birds to your yard


Is your yard a flight path, but never a landing strip? That happens when a yard holds little or nothing to encourage birds to fly in and stay. Birds have limited time—their days are busy with the need to find sufficient food, adequate shelter, and suitable nesting places. If your yard doesn’t offer any of that, they’ll fly on by. You can turn that around, though, and in fairly quick order, by following these tips. Birds will notice the “amenities” you’re offering and lower their landing gears!

First, feeders

Hang bird feeders. Attract your favorite birds by filling them with seeds, nuts, and fruits they prefer, such as white millet for sparrows, safflower for cardinals, peanuts for jays and woodpeckers, nectar for hummingbirds, and grape jelly or orange slices for orioles. The broader the selection, the more species you’ll attract. If you want to offer only one kind, then black-oil sunflower seeds, in the shell or chipped, are the way to go, as they have widespread appeal. (Place feeders 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.7 m) away from shrubbery so that birds will be safe from hidden predators.)  Birds and their favorite foods

Water, too

Offer water for drinking and bathing (even in the winter, using a birdbath heater*), and keep it fresh to prevent diseases. Put it on a pedestal, hang it, or place it on the ground (or do all three). (Keep ground birdbaths away from places where predators can hide and jump out.)

Put up birdhouses

When you offer food, water, and shelter, birds will not only visit your yard regularly, but many will nest there, too. But, they’re particular—various species have differing requirements. So hang birdhouses suited to the kinds of birds you want to use them. They also must be placed at proper heights and locations. For instance, American Robins like to nest on a shelf, and House Wrens want a birdhouse with a tiny entrance hole that will keep larger birds out.

Secure the birdhouse away from direct sun. If placed on a pole, use a baffle below it to prevent predators from climbing up. Select designs that are well ventilated and easy to clean.  How to clean feeders and birdhouses   Bird species and where to hang their birdhouses

Offer up special nesting materials

Different birds use various kinds of nesting materials, 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 “building” materials. Hang them over trim limbs in visible areas or loosely fill mesh bags with soft materials (make sure the mesh has large holes so their contents can be easily pulled free).

Ideas for nesting materials

  • Yarn cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (5 to 7.6 cm)
  • Hair from your dog’s brush, loosely separated
  • If you’re a hairstylist, take home hair clippings
  • Cotton balls
  • Mop string (clean) cut 2 to 3 inches long (5 to 8 cm)
  • Broom bristles
  • Small pebbles

Plant trees

Trees that produce delicious berries, such as hawthorn, mulberry, serviceberry, crabapple, and cherry will attract numerous birds, including waxwings, mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins, and orioles.
If possible, let fallen fruit lay, as birds will feed on it there, as well. Fruit trees also attract insects, which are a vital part of a bird’s diet.

Plant other trees, as well, for additional shelter, nesting, and roosting places. There are varieties to suit any yard size, soil condition, and climate. Include evergreens, such as Eastern Redcedar, conifers, and spruces, for the year-round protection they provide from predators and harsh weather.  List of native trees

Plant shrubs

Fruiting shrubs are another source of food for birds. Select varieties that will have fruit ripening at different times, so something is always available.  Shrub list

Plant flowering plants

Seed-bearing flowers, such as coneflowers, coreopsis, aster, and sunflowers, are food sources.  Plant list   

* Male Northern Cardinal in flight. (Andy Morffew / Wikimedia cc by 2.0)
* Birdbath heaters on Amazon  

More reading:

Birds and their favorite birdseeds   
Attract butterflies to your yard   
Native annuals for butterflies  
N.A. hummingbirds that migrate thousands of miles  

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