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Feeding the Birds: Attract More Birds to Your Backyard

Updated on June 7, 2018
Anthony Altorenna profile image

I like spending time in the garden, around the house, in the workshop, and fishing. Most of my projects are originals.

Our bird-friendly backyard
Our bird-friendly backyard | Source

Helping the Birds to Feel At Home In Your Backyard

There's more to feeding wild birds than just filling up a bird feeder with seed and hanging it your backyard. Sure, hanging out a bird feeder will attract a few birds. But to really bring in the feathered visitors, create an inviting habitat that caters to their natural needs. Adding a few native plants for food and shelter will attract many more and many different types of birds as well as other local wildlife into your garden.

Attracting and feeding wild birds is easy if your yard offers four essential ingredients:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Nesting Sites

Regardless of the size of your property or your gardening skills, every yard has the potential to attract interesting wildlife visitors. Creating a backyard wildlife habitat is a rewarding experience, providing benefits to the local wilds birds and other animals while creating your own personal wilderness sanctuary. Here are a few tips for creating a backyard wildlife habitat for attracting and feeding wild birds.

Backyard Bird Feeder Tips

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird | Source

Calling in the Locals

To attract the most birds to your feeders, it helps to become familiar with the types of wild birds in your area. Attracting and feeding wild birds requires a basic awareness of the types of birds found in your geographic region and in your local environment.

Even within the same geographic region, a suburban plot may attract different species of wild birds than an urban yard or a large rural property, making it important to understand which types of wild birds are in your local area and will visit your backyard habitat.

Wildlife Friendly Gardens Encourage Birds, Bats and Bees to Visit

A Variety of Native Plants, Bird Feeders and  Birdhouses Attracts Wildlife to Our Backyard Habitat
A Variety of Native Plants, Bird Feeders and Birdhouses Attracts Wildlife to Our Backyard Habitat | Source

Bring in the Natives

Wild birds evolved eating the natural berries and seeds produced by trees, bushes and wildflowers. They also feed on the varieties of insects that are attracted to flowers and nectar produced by native plants.

Planting a variety of native shrubs, perennials and annuals increases the natural forage available to visiting birds and other wildlife. Flowers and blooms attract insects, both beneficial to the wildlife habitat and as prey items for bug hunters including flycatchers, martins and bluebirds.

Trees and shrubs provide cover for escaping predators as well as protection from the elements. Hanging a few birdhouses gives cavity-nesting birds a safe place to raise their young, encouraging generations of birds to take up residence in your garden.

With a little planning, any yard can become a haven for attracting and feeding wild birds.

A Small Backyard Pond provides a year-round water source for birds and other wildlife
A Small Backyard Pond provides a year-round water source for birds and other wildlife | Source

Add A Water Source

Wild birds need fresh, clean water daily for drinking and bathing, and they are attracted from long distances away by the sound of moving and splashing water.

Rinse and re-fill birdbaths daily, both to provide fresh clean drinking water for the birds as well as eliminating places for mosquito larva to grow.

If space allows, a small garden pond offers a permanent water source and adds another important environment to for attracting frogs and other wildlife. A small circulating pump in our pond creates enough water flow to feed a small stream. Running year round, birds and other wildlife are attracted to the water source by the sounds of splashing water. The continually moving water also prevents the stream and pond from freezing over completely when the cold weather comes, giving the birds access to fresh drinking water throughout the winter months.

Black Oil Sunflower Bird Feeder
Black Oil Sunflower Bird Feeder | Source

The Buffet is Open

Some wild birds prefer seeds, some eat berries and fruits while others hunt bugs and insects. Offering a wide variety of food sources and different types of backyard bird feeders will increase the number and types of birds attracted into your yard.

Matching the food sources to the wild birds in your area, and to the types of birds you want to attract, significantly increases your chances of attracting birds to your feeders. A hanging bird feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds attracts perching birds including nuthatches and chickadees. Gold finches flock to bird feeders filled with thistle or nyger seeds, and woodpeckers cling to suet feeders. Cardinals and mourning doves eat sunflower and safflower seeds, but they will only visit tray style feeders.

Recent studies indicate that feeding wild birds year round does not have any negative impact on the bird's ability to forage naturally. Instead, feeding wild birds throughout the summer provides a consistent food source during times of severe weather or times when natural foods are scarce. Backyard bird feeders must be kept clean and filled with fresh bird seed to discourage the spread of disease.

How many bird feeders are hanging in your yard?

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What Type of Seed Do Birds Eat?

Offering a variety of wild bird seed from a number of different types of feeders scattered around the yard at different heights will increase the number and variety of birds enticed into the yard in search of a free meal.

Here's a short list of the common birds in North America, and the type of wild birdseed that attracts them. Fill up your backyard bird feeders and ring the dinner bell!

Squirrels love to raid bird feeders
Squirrels love to raid bird feeders | Source

Dealing with Unwelcome Visitors

Backyard bird feeders can attract some uninvited guests who are looking for a free meal and quite willing to share with the birds.

Squirrels are persistent to the point of being comical in their pursuit of emptying the contents of bird feeders. Baffles and squirrel-resistant feeders offer some protection against these raiders, but their tireless attacks will ultimately reward them with a few stolen seeds.

Consider putting out ground and tray feeders filled with seed and cracked corn for the squirrels, and they are more likely to leave the other feeders alone.

Other visitors can be bigger problems, and perhaps even dangerous. Raccoons, bears and even moose may visit backyard feeders in search of an easy snack. Animals are creatures of habit and if they find your backyard bird feeders, they are likely to return again and again for a free meal. In most cases, the best option for deterring these unwelcome and potentially dangerous visitors is to remove the feeders for a while. After a few unsuccessful visits, they may look elsewhere for food.

If you live in an area with a bear population, consider waiting until the weather turns colder and bears go into hibernation before putting out the birdfeeders.

Tips for Feeding Wild Birds

A Gallery of Bird Feeders

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Black Oil Sunflower Seed FeederThistle Seed FeederBlack Oils Sunflower Seed FeederCovered Platform FeederBluebird FeederOriole FeederSuet FeederThree Different Bird Feeders
Black Oil Sunflower Seed Feeder
Black Oil Sunflower Seed Feeder | Source
Thistle Seed Feeder
Thistle Seed Feeder | Source
Black Oils Sunflower Seed Feeder
Black Oils Sunflower Seed Feeder | Source
Covered Platform Feeder
Covered Platform Feeder | Source
Bluebird Feeder
Bluebird Feeder | Source
Oriole Feeder
Oriole Feeder | Source
Suet Feeder
Suet Feeder | Source
Three Different Bird Feeders
Three Different Bird Feeders | Source

Certify Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat


The National Wildlife Federation Certification Program

For over 35 years, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has encouraged homeowners, schools, corporations and municipalities to incorporate the needs of the local wildlife into their landscape design.

So far, the NWF has recognized the efforts of nearly 140,000 individuals and organizations who plant native shrubs and plants for food, cover and places for raising their young, provide include a source of drinking water, and add nesting boxes for cavity nesting birds.

Please visit the NWF website for additional information on their official Certified Wildlife Habitat program

Don't Forget To Feed the Birds in Winter!

Feeding the Birds in Winter
Feeding the Birds in Winter | Source

© 2011 Anthony Altorenna

Tell Us About the Birds Visiting Your Feeders

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a lovely lens and thanks for all the great bird feeding tips.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I gave up on bird feeders as the squirrels always find a way to dump it all out in a few minutes. I now just throw seed out on my patio, and keep water in a birdbath. I love watching them. I have cardinals, doves, blue jays, chickadees, Carolina wrens, brown thrashers, and occasionally several other varieties I haven't yet identified. And of course squirrels. Great lens.

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 

      7 years ago

      Great information here for the different types of food and the birds that food attracts.Feeding the birds is part of my daily routine :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Just put put the food and watch them come in and enjoy the show as a variety of birds make your yard their favorite buffet!


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