5 WAYS TO ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR YARD WITHOUT USING BIRD FEEDERS
If you search how to attract more birds to your yard you will inevitably find lots of articles about using bird feeders. Being someone who has a love/hate relationship with bird feeders (check out my blog article SHOULD YOU FEED THE BIRDS? for the pros and cons), I can understand why you may not want to have bird feeders. No fret though if you still want to have birds visiting your yard. Here are 5 ways you can design your yard so as to attract more birds. Not only do birds gobble up pest insects such as mosquitos, but they are also truly delightful to watch and listen to (unless you are one of those people who complain about the birds being too loud in the morning - really?) Also, with the devasting decline in our bird populations, you will be helping the environment by welcoming birds to your yard.
1. Provide Plants That Attract Insects (Especially Caterpillars)
Birds for the most part rely on insects for food. and in fact, the vast majority of birds rear their young exclusively on caterpillars. Therefore, if you want birds you have to welcome insects too. Giving you the insect creeps? Remember, a healthy and biodiverse landscape will not be overwhelmed by insects because birds and other wildlife will arrive for the feast. Heard of the circle of life keeping everything in check? That is what will happen giving you a yard full of life.
The following are some great native tree, shrub and perennial options (in order of having the greatest impact) that attract the most caterpillars:
Oak (Quercus sp.)
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)
Birch (Betula sp.)
Willow (Salix sp.)
Poplar (Populus sp.)
Maple (Acer sp.)
Cranberry or Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)
Crabapple (Malus sp.)
Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)
Strawberry (Fragaria sp.)
Sunflower (Helianthus sp.)
Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium sp.)
To find more plants, specific to your region, visit Native Plants Finder (nwf.org).
2. Plant Berry Shrubs and Trees
Since birds love berries, especially in the leaner, winter months, plant berry trees and shrubs. I have a gigantic American Holly (Ilex opaca) and every January for a few days it is teeming with birds coming to eat all the berries. It is a time when bird food sources are scarce, and it is amazing and does my heart good that I can help them out with my beautiful tree.
Looking for some options? Check out my article 9 BERRY SHRUBS TO ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR GARDEN.
3. Plant Perennials That Have Nectar Filled Flowers and Tasty Seeds
Besides insects and berries, birds like to eat nectar (especially hummingbirds) and flower seeds. Although trees and shrubs do flower, perennials and annuals are generally the primary source of nectar and seeds and by designing your landscape in a way that plants flower at different times, you will be more successful in providing a food source for the birds throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Although, there are many to choose from, here are a few of my favorite nectar and seed plants:
Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa parviflora)
Cleome or Spiderflower (Cleome hassleriana)
Flowering Tabacco (Nicotiana)
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)
Lantana (Lantana camara)
Zinna (Zinna elegans)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp.)
Columbine (Aquilegia sp.)
Coneflower (Echinacea sp.)
Foxglove (Digitalis sp.)
Penstemon (Penstemon sp.)
Tickseed (Coreopsis sp.)
4. Provide a Water Source
Birds obviously need water to drink and bathe. While ponds and streams are great, if you don't have these in your yard, put up a bird bath. They make some pretty ones and some are even heated in the winter.
5. Provide Shelter
The final element is to provide shelter for the birds. You can put up birdhouses or structures, but not all birds will utilize them. Instead, make sure you have evergreen shrubs and other kinds of plants where they can seek protection. They need safe places to hide from predators, get away from the bad weather and safely build their nests for the babies. The best option is to have a variety of trees and shrubs, evergreen and flowering, of various heights.