The chirp and tweet of birds whirring and hopping through my yard is one of my simple pleasures. Birds of a feather and all that, it turns out I’m not alone. More than 70 million people put out bird food to entice our feathered friends. Putting out bird food is a one way to lure birds in the garden, but what else can you do to keep them flitting about? It turns out quite a few things. Here are my top 5 tips for attracting birds to the yard.
Landscape your yard with your bird friends in mind. This means incorporating plants that create places where they can roost, raise young and find food. Depending upon the type of bird, this may mean adding trees or creating a thicket of dense shrubbery. Add shrubs that produce berries (such as holly, mulberry or beautyberry) as well as fruiting trees and plants that produce seeds and nuts, and plant in groupings to create a protected area.
Provide the birds with a water source. Sure, a bird bath is an option, but instead of static water, add a bubbler, mister or dripper to create motion. If you really want to go big, add a waterfall or pond. Don’t forget the birds in the winter. While they can get their water from snow and ice, if you want to attract them, add a heater attachment to a bird bath.
Put feeders in the right location. Bird feeders are terrific ways to attract birds, but they do their job best when put in the right spot. Some birds are scared to visit a feeder that is exposed while others like to take a flying leap across the yard to the feeder. Situate multiple feeders so they can accommodate different types of birds. This means placing one feeder near a large shrub or tree that offers cover for timid birds and placing another farther away in a tree for the bolder birds. Give bird species some space and separate individual feeders at least 3 feet (around a meter) from each other.
Give them a place to nest. Creating habitat in the landscape is a terrific way to keep the birds around, but you can provide them with options by hanging birdhouses or a roost box. Be sure to have nesting material available. Some birds use detritus from the landscape while others may use man-made materials, such as cotton or string, and still others make good use of Fido’s shed fur.
Vary the menu. Many people feed the hummingbirds or put suet out in the winter for the birds, but if you want to get a variety of avian wildlife, try varying the menu. Yes, hummers like a variety of flowering plants to fill up on, but they will happily sip from a syrup filled feeder. For a treat, you can even offer the birds a sampling of your menu by feeding birds kitchen scraps such as pasta, rice, or bread. Don’t use the birds as composters, however. It is much better for them to eat naturally occurring foods so give them the previous foods only on occasion.