How to Attract Birds

How to Attract Birds

Gardening for the Birds

"There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before." ~ Robert Wilson Lynd

Since I began to track how many types of birds I can see from my house, I was surprised to find out that my count is up to 26! If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you we had a half-dozen different bird types.  Life is much more exciting with so many more birds in it!



cardinal and house finch on feederbird bathing in fountainhouse sparrow feeding an insect to a baby bird


How do you attract birds to your garden?


The easiest way to attract birds is to put up bird feeders.  After years of trying different types of feeders, I am thrilled that I finally found a great squirrel-proof one, Wild Birds Unlimited Eliminator Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder.  I had spent so much money feeding the squirrels that would raid my birdfeeders… until now, because they have not been able to figure this feeder out – ha!  I also like to have a thistle feeder for the American Goldfinches that fly all the way from the north across the country to my garden over winter.  They are quickly attracted by the yellow feeder full of fresh thistle seed.  In addition, I like having a tray feeder because the Cardinals prefer to eat on a platform. Not wanting to leave any feathered friend hungry, I sprinkle seed on the ground during very cold days, and when I want to see the cute Juncos up close.  Start with black oil sunflower and thistle seeds – you will easily attract many beautiful birds.

Next, provide shallow water for your feathered friends.  They will come to drink.  They will also bathe in the shallow water and you will get to see the cutest wet bird shows in the world!  They seem to forget all their troubles as they frolic in the water.  During winter, remember to keep your water from freezing because water is critical to their survival. Bird bath heaters are available.

Lastly, provide a balanced diet for your birds.  The most important food is insects.  Even birds that mostly feed on seeds, fruits and berries must feed insects to their young until the young leave the nest. A diet of only seeds, fruits and berries does not provide enough protein to sustain the quick growth rate of baby birds. Therefore, in order to have enough insects in your garden, you need to do two things.  First,plant native plants.  Insects are the foundation of healthy ecosystems, and our native plants are what insects are able to eat because that is what they evolved with. Native plants also supply seeds, fruits and berries.  Second, stop spraying insecticides because that kills your insects.  When you spray you are taking away the main food source for your birds. Birds love insects!  Your garden is your birds’ supermarket!


plants that attract birds


Recommended Plants


My favorite berry plants to attract birds are American Beautyberry (great for shade and winter color), Pyracantha (great for sun or shade and beautiful bright red or orange berries in winter), Rusty Blackhaw Virburnum (any viburnum!), Virginia Creeper (a great vine for any wall), Roughleaf dogwood (a small understory tree for shade to partial shade), and Savannah Holly (a beautiful narrow tree great for small lots and privacy fences).  Cedar Wax Wings devour the red berries in my Savannah Holly, in one day, usually in February.  It is a spectacle to see these beautiful birds!

Happy Gardening!