Attracting Birds to the Garden
by Jackie Carroll
A gardener's relationship with birds is one
of mutual benefit. The gardener provides for a few of the birds basic
needs, and the birds help to keep down the insect population while
treating us to an unending source of entertainment. Birds take their role
as insect predator seriously. A single bird will gulp down 500 to 1,000
insects in an afternoon.
Birds have four primary needs: food, water,
shelter, and a place to raise a family. As you'll see, these needs are
Two types of seeds, white proso millet and black oil sunflower seeds, will
attract most common seed-eating birds. These two seeds should be the
mainstay in your feeders. To broaden the diversity of birds visiting your
feeders, add species-specific seeds such as red proso millet, black- and
gray-striped sunflower seeds, Niger thistle (for goldfinches, pine siskins
and purple finches), milo and peanut kernels (for chickadees and white
Beef suet helps birds maintain their body
heat in cold weather. Hang plastic mesh bags of suet or pinecones dipped
in melted suet from tree limbs. Woodpeckers are particularly appreciative
of this treat.
For more suggestions on feeding birds, see
Leigh Abernathy's article
It's For The Birds.
If you're interested in attracting hummingbirds to your garden, see Naomi
Creating a Hummingbird Haven.
An ideal water source for birds should be about three inches deep and
three feet off the ground. Motion and sound will grab a bird's attention.
You can create moving water by suspending a leaky container from a branch
over a birdbath. Fountains and waterfalls are favorite hangouts for
songbirds, and misters place in the plants near your birdbath will attract
a variety of feathered visitors.
Birds need shelter to protect them from the elements and allow them to
hide from predators. Dense, twiggy shrubs and evergreens are the shelter
of choice for most birds.
Different species of birds have different nesting requirements, and you
can find ready-made bird houses or build-it-yourself plans for almost
every species of bird. Choose birdhouses that are weather resistant and
have a pitched roof to shed rain. There should be holes in the sides and
bottom for ventilation and drainage. A hinged or removable roof is a bonus
for you because it makes cleaning much easier. The birdhouse should be
cleaned after each nesting season.
When hanging your birdhouse, position the
entrance hole away from prevailing winds.
For more information about attracting wildlife to your garden, visit