Attracting Birds

To your landscape and why they are beneficial


Why should I garden to attract birds to my landscape?

How to attract birds to your landscapeLandscaping naturally increases property values. Planting trees, shrubs, and perennials naturally attract birds to your yard. Many birds also eat harmful insects and are just plain fun to watch.

Birds can provide hours of educational entertainment when they build nests and raise their young in your yard.

Many of the plants that birds are attracted to also help reduce soil erosion and help to prevent water run off into our lakes and rivers. Trees also help filter and clean the air we breathe. And don't forget that well placed deciduous and evergreen trees can help reduce your energy costs, by providing shade in the summer and blocking harsh winter winds in the winter.

How to attract more birds to your yard.

All you need to do to attract more birds to your landscape is to provide food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. Here are some simple things you can do:

  1. Plant native trees and shrubs (a mixture of evergreen and deciduous is ideal) for shelter as well as for food (trees that have seeds or berries can be eaten by the birds).
  2. Plant native perennials and annual flowers that provide seed for birds in winter.
  3. Place birdhouses in your trees or on poles in your yard to provide shelter and to raise their young. Not all birds will nest in houses. Many birds prefer to nest in trees and shrubs.
  4. Provide water in the form of a birdbath (less than 3" deep) or a natural water source, such as a pond or stream.
  5. Provide an additional food source, especially in winter, of mixed seeds and nuts and/or suet. Avoid seed mixtures that contain red millet as birds will not eat that type of seed. Providing a mixture of black oil sunflower, white millet, safflower, cracked corn, and peanuts will attract a wide variety of birds. If you can only provide one kind of food, black oil sunflower is ideal.
  6. Provide suet in the winter to attract woodpeckers as well as chickadees and other birds to your yard. Suet is a valuable energy source for them.
  7. Put out a variety of bird feeders to attract more types of birds. Some birds prefer feeding on the ground, such as cardinals, blue jays, and doves, so a platform feeder is ideal. Most birds are content with a hopper style feeder and finches prefer tube feeders containing Niger seed or white millet. More about bird feeders can be found here.

Following are good examples of plants to incorporate into your landscape that will attract birds. You may want to check with your local Extension office to see what is native or hardy to your area.

  • Trees: Dogwood, Eastern Redbud, Sugar Maple, Crab Apple, and White Pine
  • Shrubs: Blueberry, Viburnum, Elderberry, Holly and Quince
  • Perennials: Coneflower, Black Eyed Susan, Ornamental Grasses and Penstemon
  • Annuals: Sunflower, Millet, Cosmos and Zinnia

How to care for your birdbath.

How to attract birds to your landscapeAt least once a week, you should clean your birdbath by scrubbing it with a stiff brush or scrubby sponge and fresh water. If you have algae stains that are not removed by scrubbing, you may add a cap full of bleach to the water and allow it to sit for up to an hour to kill the algae. Cover the birdbath or bring it inside, away from the birds if you need to use bleach as the bleach will harm the birds. Rinse the birdbath several times to remove any bleach residue, allow to dry and then refill with fresh water. In the winter, your birdbath will either need to be heated, to prevent freezing, or brought inside for the winter. If the birds will not have access to a natural water source in the winter, it is highly recommended to provide the birds with one to keep them coming to your yard all year round.

How to attract birds to your birdbath.

Your birdbath should be placed in a fairly open area so that birds can watch out for predators, yet at least 5' away from a tree or shrub so that they can fly away if in danger. If you have cats roaming the area, place your birdbath at least four feet off the ground.

It can take some time for birds to find your birdbath. Placing your birdbath near a bird feeder will help attract birds faster.

You may also use a mister or water dripper as birds are attracted to moving water. Placing the birdbath in such a way that the breeze ripples the water as it blows will also help.

How to care for your birdhouse.

Bird HouseOnce a year, birdhouses should be cleaned out. This is best done during the autumn months as birds are usually done with the houses by then. To clean a birdhouse, remove the side or bottom of the house and take out any nesting material inside. Spray the inside of the house with a bleach solution (10 parts water to 1 part bleach). Scrub with a stiff brush then rinse thoroughly with fresh water. Allow the birdhouse to completely air dry before putting it back up.

Many birds will use birdhouses to get out of the harsh elements over the winter, so make sure you leave some up all year round for this purpose.

I have written more in depth articles about bird feeder placement, types of feeders and types of bird food if you'd like to take a look at them.

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