8 Tips For Attracting Birds To Your Yard

There are a few simple things you can do to make your yard look like a pleasant place for birds to visit.

Planting native trees or shrubs, setting up bird feeders, or even making bird baths are a few ways to increase your chances of having a regular flock stop by -- or in some cases move in!

It's important to realize that not all birds will be attracted to the same thing. Some prefer certain trees, shrubs, and flowers, whereas others might prefer a different type of food that you offer them.

Tip #1: Start By Planting Native Trees and Shrubs

Planting trees and shrubs not only provides food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds and other animals, but also helps balance the ecosystem and increase the oxygen levels in the air.

There are lots of different plants that are attractive to birds, but it's helpful to know what kind of birds live in your area and which bird species you'd like to attract.

Two Wax Eyes feeding on a fruit tree (Flickr: heyitsbenrobinson)
Two Wax Eyes feeding on a fruit tree (Flickr: heyitsbenrobinson)

The National Audubon Society is a US based organization committed to the preservation of birds. In addition to being an excellent birding resource, they offer a free tool that allows anyone in the United States to get a list of native plants in their area. Simply visit their website and enter your zip code. It will output results that have been hand-selected from Audubon expects in your region that are relatively easy to grow and available at nearby nurseries for purchase.

Audubon's native plants database
Audubon's native plants database

Tip #2: Keep Lawns Trimmed

Birds are critical to ecological diversity and natural pest control, but many of their food sources are disappearing. The most common way to solve this problem is to plant more flowers and shrubs, but the natural habitat of many birds is the lawn. To help birds find food, lawns should be kept shorter so that they do not hide food sources from the birds.

Tip #3: Provide Perches For Birds To Rest On

Providing perches for birds in your backyard is a great way to make them feel at home. Some birds prefer to perch on a thin, straight branch, while others prefer a wide, sturdy branch. You can provide a perch near a bird feeder or water dish to make it easier for the birds to get to the food or water.

Tip #4: Avoid Using Pesticides and Herbicides

The use of pesticides or herbicides in your yard can harm birds. Pesticides and herbicides can poison birds, make them sick, or kill them. Birds can also be harmed by eating insects that have been poisoned by pesticides.

Tip #5: Add Fresh Water Sources

Just like humans, birds need to drink fresh water to stay healthy and hydrated. Bowls, bird baths, fountains, and shallow ponds can be used as sources of water for birds to not only drink from, but also bathe in.

An American Robin enjoying a nice bath (Flickr: usfwsmidwest)
An American Robin enjoying a nice bath (Flickr: usfwsmidwest)

The water sources should be refilled with fresh water every day, and cleaned at least once a week in order to prevent algae growth and bacteria that could pose a potential health risk to the birds.

Tip #6: Adding Feeders

A bird feeder is an outdoor feeding station for wild birds that provides them with food. There are different types of feeders available on the market and they all come with various features and benefits, but if you prefer, you can even make your own.

Avoid Placing Feeders Near Windows

Sadly, window strikes are a leading cause of death and injury for birds in the United States. Place feeders away from any windows and cover the glass with screens or netting to prevent birds from flying into them. Glass pens also work well to prevent strikes. Simply draw straight vertical lines about 6 inches apart from each other on any windows near your feeders.

Clean Feeders Regularly

Birds can develop a serious illness called "salmonellosis" from dirty feeders when the droppings of other birds (and rodents like squirrels) get mixed into the food. This can cause them to become weak and unable to fly, which can lead to them being easy prey for predators. Additionally, sick birds can spread their diseases to other birds, potentially causing a large-scale outbreak. Make sure to completely sanitize bird feeders with isopropyl alcohol and or dishwasher soap at least once a week (more often in humid climates) to prevent outbreaks.

Keep Pets Away

Dogs can be a problem when it comes to attracting birds to bird feeders because they often chase them away. Cats on the other hand like to hunt small prey and will attack anything that moves in their path. These two animals can make it difficult for you if you want to attract bird species with a bird feeder.

One way to discourage cats and dogs from approaching bird feeders is to place a fence around the feeder. This can be a physical fence or a virtual fence created with a motion-activated sprinkler. If a physical fence is used, it should be at least 18 inches high so that cats can't jump over it and dogs can't dig under it. If a motion-activated sprinkler is used, it should be placed so that it will douse the animal when it approaches the feeder. Other ways to keep cats and dogs away from bird feeders include using bird feeders that are inaccessible to animals or using feeders that are designed to keep the seed inside.

Nectar Feeders: Attract Hummingbirds

If you want hummingbirds in your yard, then nectar feeders are a must! While it’s possible to purchase nectar from the store, it’s easier, cheaper, and even safer to make your own. Using just water and sugar; mix them together in equal parts and heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Once it has cooled, fill your feeder and enjoy the show!

A Rufous Hummingbird having a snack (Flickr: siamesepuppy)
A Rufous Hummingbird having a snack (Flickr: siamesepuppy)

Warning: Bees and ants are both fiends for the sweet stuff and will swarm your feeders eventually. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent them from agitating your hummingbirds. Ant guards and buying the proper hummingbird feeders are both good places to start.

Fruit Feeders: Attract orioles and tanagers

Orioles and tanagers love fruit almost as much as they love insects! If you want to attract these beautiful birds to your yard, try setting up a fruit feeder. Orioles especially like grape jelly or oranges, but other fruits like apples or pears will also work. Just be sure to clean your feeder often, as fruit can rot quickly and attract other unwanted pests.

Seed Feeders: Attract a wide variety of birds

Birds that are attracted to seed feeders are generally small to medium-sized, like finches, chickadees, and titmice. These birds are usually attracted to feeders that offer a variety of seeds, such as sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and millet.

Some larger birds, such as cardinals and blue/scrub jays, may also be attracted to seed feeders, but they prefer feeders offering a mixture of seeds, suet, and nuts (peanuts, pecans, walnuts).

You can purchase birdseed from a pet store or online, or you can grow your own! Just be sure that whatever seeds you use are safe for birds; many common weeds can be poisonous to them.

A scrub jay evaluates its choices (Flickr: tdlucas5000)
A scrub jay evaluates its choices (Flickr: tdlucas5000)

Tip #7: Avoid Artificial Lights at Night

Artificial lights can disrupt a bird's circadian rhythm, or natural sleep-wake cycle. Birds that are exposed to artificial light for long periods of time can become confused about when to eat, when to sleep, and when to mate. This can lead to a number of problems for the bird, including a weakened immune system, decreased fertility, and even changes in the bird's behavior.

Tip #8: Add Birdhouses

Adding a birdhouse can provide a place for birds to nest and lay eggs, protect them from the harsh weather, and attract other birds to an area.

  • Place it in an open area with plenty of light but also away from trees or other tall structures that can block sunlight from entering the house.
  • Make sure that the entrance is at least 2 inches in diameter and that there are no sharp edges on the inside of the house.
  • Put food inside of it for birds to find; you can use a variety of things like seeds, nuts, suet, or mealworms.
  • Use brightly colored materials for your birdhouse to make it more visible from afar. In addition, make sure you clean it regularly so that food does not spoil and become toxic for birds.

Conclusion

The fun part of attracting birds to your backyard is that you get to enjoy their company. It's also a fun challenge to see how many different kinds of birds you can attract. Plus, it's a great way to learn more about birds and their habits.

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