Every year millions of people discover the pleasures of bringing wild birds into your yard. Birds are wild creatures that bring an element of nature up close and personal. They add color, liveliness and music to our yards during all seasons. They are beneficial too, eating huge quantities of insects and scattering seeds in different places. Birds are pretty easy to attract, and once they have a “home” will return to that area year after year. The three main parts to attracting birds are food, water and shelter.
Food is the biggest piece of the bird attraction puzzle. The easiest way to provide food is to purchase a bird feeder and wild bird seed mixture. This will attract many different species. If you prefer to try and attract certain kinds of birds, you need to research what type of seed and plants will attract the bird you are interested in. For example cardinals enjoy black striped sunflower seeds, finches prefer thistle seed and bluebirds love to feast on dried meal worms. You can even purchase specific types of mixes of seeds to attract songbirds. Vary the offerings and types of feeders as well as spacing the feeders at different heights and areas around your yard. Make sure to have some platform and low ground feeders for birds that eat from the ground like doves and pigeons.
If you want to experiment with homemade foods, here are some household foods and the birds that are attracted to them.
Bread Products: Wrens, mocking birds, thrashers, sparrows, warblers, tanagers, titmice, towhees, creepers, robins, blackbirds, kinglets, cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, chickadees, bluebirds and thrushes.
Suet (rendered from beef fat): Woodpeckers, wrens, warblers, tanagers, nuthatch, creepers, chickadees, orioles, titmice, mockingbirds, cardinals, goldfinches, bluebirds, grosbeaks and buntings. (Do not use bacon grease. It is full of salt and nitrates that are harmful to birds.)Peanuts and peanut butter: Towhees, goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, wrens, sparrows, titmice, grosbeaks, buntings and juncos.
Berries: Wax wings, robins, bluebirds and thrushes. Raisins and currants: Wax wings, orioles, robins, bluebirds and thrushes.
Nuts: Creepers, towhees, juncos, thrashes, mockingbirds, warblers and woodpeckers.
Apples: Wax wings, mockingbirds, thrashers, wrens, cardinals, grosbeaks and buntings. Fruit: Tanagers, orioles, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, thrashers, warblers, cardinals, grosbeaks, buntings, goldfinches and finches.
Things you can use, if you are using recipes to make homemade wild bird food:• Raisins, dates or currants• Shelled peanuts• Apples• Oranges• Birdseed mix• Black oil sunflower seeds• String or yarn• Lard, shortening or rendered suet• Crunchy peanut butter• Jellies and jams, especially grape• Molasses• Oatmeal• Stale bread, breadcrumbs, cereal or crackers• Baked goods, especially plain doughnuts hung on a string• Cornmeal or cornbread mix• Cream of wheat• Flour (whole wheat flour preferred)Once you have attracted the birds with enticing foods, you need to provide water. This can be done by setting up bird baths around the yard. A dripping hose hung from a tree, a garbage can lid turned upside down and placed on the ground, a small bucket filled with water and hung from a tree branch, ceramic saucers filled with water and placed on a tree stump, or a naturally formed river rock with water are perfect for those thirsty winged friends. If you are industrious you can make your own small pond by digging a hole and lining it with a plastic liner or making a wood frame that holds a baking dish or dog water bowl in place but can be easily changed. Birds are also attracted to moving water, so fountains or ponds with pumps will draw their attention.
Finally, having shelter will encourage your feathered friends to stay and maybe even raise a family. There are many cute and quirky bird houses that are available for purchase, or you can build your own. Clean milk jugs with a hole drilled in the front for an entrance and string through the top for hanging are easy and cheap houses. Empty wire baskets attached to a tree trunk or suspended from a branch can also be used. Place some soft cloth, pet hair, stuffing from old furniture, yarn, or fuzzy material by the basket. Do not put materials in the baskets as birds will think they are already occupied.
Purchasing shrubs and trees that will grow into protective covers are an excellent investment; they help clean the air, and provide shelter for birds as well as looking beautiful in your yard.
Popular trees for birds are fir trees (especially pine), apple, hemlock, mulberry and oak. Popular shrubs are juniper, cherry, dogwood, holly and sumac. Berry bushes of all kinds, grapes, honeysuckle and viburnum bushes are also very popular for providing food for many species of birds.
My goal is to try and attract one new kind of bird every year and keep it returning annually. It is a fun hobby, but it is completely relaxing to sit outside on a lovely day and listen to the beautiful songs of all my friends. Try it! It’s a great way to relax!