1 – Start courting the birds you already see in or around your yard. Got a couple of cardinals? Start with food, feeders and habitat likely to appeal to them. Even if you ultimately want to attract a whole host of new species, bird activity attracts other birds, so encourage the locals to gather.
2 – If you want to attract specific species, research what kind of food the bird(s) in question prefers, and also how they like to eat – some birds like small seeds in feeders, other meal worms on a platform feeder and still others don’t use feeders at all.
3 – Consider the season – birds need food year round, but the kind and amount of food may vary seasonally, and the migration habits of your region’s birds will change the food or habitat needs of your visitors. Even non-migratory birds have cyclical habits. Our blue jays stick around over the winter but don’t visit our feeders or yard much. Come later spring, they hang out in our trees all day long, begging for peanuts. The Carolina wrens are very active in our garden all winter and come to the feeder for nuts and seeds but we don’t see much of them in spring or early summer. Those two seasonal behavior patterns change how we offer food.
4 – If the birds you hope to attract don’t eat from feeders or aren’t into seeds in general, put in plants that can serve as a food source (like berries) or put in plants that attract insects that your desired species eats. Eastern bluebirds and Caroline Wrens will visit feeders, but are more interested in eating insects and small worms, for example. By limiting your use of pesticides and encouraging a healthy ecosystem, you’ll ensure there’s plenty of insects for the birds to eat.
5 -Some birds will nest in human-provided boxes or shelters, while other want to nest in trees, brush or natural cavities. You may not be able to attract the bird you want with food, but offering shelter may tempt them to make a home in your yard. Most species have fairly specific preferences for their nesting sites, so research the needs of your desired species.
6 – Keep it clean! If you put out feeders or a bird bath, or if you provide some bird houses, make sure you keep the surfaces clean. Clear up any spilled or spoiled food, scrub out the basin regularly and make sure houses and perches are kept clean, free of debris and waste. You’ll have a more appealing environment for your birds (and yourself!) AND you’ll be ensuring they have a healthy environment.
7- Check your landscaping – some birds like open areas and some prefer dense growth. Your yard or garden may be large enough for you to offer both, or you may be more limited. Leaving even a bit of scrub or brush or some dead limbs (only if it’s safe to do so) may help to provide shelter and protection, making birds feel safe and secure while feeding or nesting in your yard.
8 – Add water! Birds need water to drink and to bathe in. It keeps them clean and cool – even birds who don’t go in for seeds and feeders will stop by for a drink. Birds are more likely to notice your water if it has some movement or some sound, so if you can use a dripper or a fountain, so much the better. Make sure the water is always fresh and clean and that the basin is kept free from debris and algae. Depending on the range of birds, you may need to provide water in a range of depths, since little birds needs shallower water than big birds. A few flats stones in a larger bird bath can make it appealing and safe for smaller birds.
9 – If you’re not getting the bird activity you want, it might be time to change things up! Spend some time watching your feeders, fountains or habitats – see if one spot seems more popular than others, and figure out why. Maybe your feeder is too close to a sidewalk or maybe the bird bath isn’t close enough to sheltering trees. Birds like to eat, drink and roost where they feel safe – a feeder that’s near noise or traffic or that isn’t securely hung might make birds a little gun shy. Likewise, if there are roaming predators, birds won’t want to hang around. Note, try to change only one thing at a time – move a feeder to a new spot and see what happens but don’t also change the type of food, for example. Make one change and see what happens, then adjust further as you learn more.
10 – Enjoy yourself! Take time to just sit back and watch your feathered friends – it’s easy to get caught up in trying to attract new birds or in fussing with the feeders or whatever, but be sure to just enjoy the show. Do you feed or watch birds? What would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments!
It’s incredibly rewarding to create a sanctuary for birds in your yard. Nothing beats sipping my morning coffee while watching the cardinals, blue jays, wrens and goldfinches feed and frolic.