How to Encourage Birds to Visit Your Yard
Not only are birds interesting to observe, they are beneficial to the garden for a variety of reasons. Birds are natural pollinators, meaning that they transfer pollen from one plant to another. Since not all plants can pollinate themselves, and since there is such a severe bee shortage, birds help fill in that necessary gap.
According to the experts, birds will have three basic needs: food, cover/shelter and nesting areas. If you provide these three things year-round, birds will be naturally attracted to your garden, regardless of whether you live in the big city or a suburb.
Food and Water
You may be inclined to think that any type of seed will attract birds, and you may be partially correct, however, different types of birds tend to prefer to eat different things. In addition to typical seeds, consider setting out fruits such as berries or low-quality apples.
During harsh winter months, birds may need a source of fat in order to thrive. Install a suet or “fat block” (see instructions below) to help birds such as starlings throughout the cold winter months. Avoid placing homemade suet cakes in warmer climates, as the suet may become rancid; commercial suet had been treated to not spoil.
Always purchase seed from a reputable place and avoid seed that smells “off” or seems to have spoiled. Experiment with different blends of seed until you find a mix that birds in your area seem to prefer. When in doubt, think local. Supplement birdseed with whatever is the most common fruit or berry in your region.
Songbirds frequently eat a variety of seeds, whereas bluebirds tend to prefer berries and meal worms. Don’t mix seeds and meal worms together though, use a separate feeder when luring bluebirds to your yard.
In addition to installing bird feeders in your yard, consider adding a birdbath where birds can both bathe and drink. Refresh water and clean birdbaths regularly to keep the area sanitary and inviting for your feathered friends. The National Wildlife Federations suggests allowing birds to hear that water is available by installing drippers, fountains or bubblers.
Install multiple water sources in your garden if you notice a large number of birds in your garden. Provide both still and running water to attract a variety of species.
Cover and Shelter
Like other animals, birds like to feel protected, so make sure to position birdfeeders in strategic places. For example, position feeders where birds can spot danger from predators easily. (You’ll notice that birds often land on a nearby area and inspect the feeders before approaching it.) Keep feeders higher up from the ground if you have a lot of cats in the area.
Plant native species in the garden to encourage feathered visitors. Provide additional cover by allowing fallen trees to say in place, or by placing them in a secluded area of the yard.
It is ideal for birds to build their own nesting spots, so make sure to provide them with plenty of dense cover (such as bushes or hedges) where they can build nests. If you install nesting boxes, inspect them periodically for cleanliness and for any routine maintenance. Remove old seeds, and clean boxes during the off season with hot water and reattach them securely.
Offer a variety of nest boxes so your birds have options to choose from. You’ll find that some birds have distinct preferences. Vary the location of nesting boxes from year to year.
Provide natural nesting materials to encourage birds to create their own nests. Distribute fluff (such as balls of cotton or lint in the area), hair, string or grass clippings, all of which birds commonly use when nesting.
How to Make Suet Cakes
- Combine 2 parts lard, 2 parts cornmeal or bird seed, and 1-part natural peanut butter in saucepan. Heat until melted.
- Pour mixture into small containers (such as empty tuna cans or muffin tins).
- Chill or freeze containers.
- Insert cakes into a mesh bag or wire cage. Hang suet cakes from bird feeders or tree branches.
Instead of making small cakes, consider inserting the liquid mix into 1-inch holes drilled into small logs. Hang logs to trees or feeders.
Birds aren’t the only wildlife attracted to bird feeders, squirrels also have a keen interest in all those seeded goodies. Limit squirrel accessibility by placing bird feeders at least 10 feet away from all trees and structures, or by installing squirrel-proof feeders.
If you find that squirrels are unusually determined in your area, consider using a spicy bird seed or adding hot seed sauce to your seed mix.
Clean inspect birdhouses for maintenance needs during the later winter months before birds rest in the spring.
Position birdfeeders sufficiently far away from your home so birds don’t errantly fly into windows.