How To Attract Birds to Your Garden (Tips & Tricks)

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If you love birds, then no doubt you will be very keen to attract as many feathered friends as possible to your garden. But what should you do to attract avian visitors to your backyard?

It’s terribly sad to be a birdwatcher with no birds to watch. But if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, there are a number of simple things you can do to make sure you have plenty of wild birds sharing your space.

Why Keen Gardeners Have an Advantage in Attracting Birds

Birds are looking for certain things in their lives and a well-planned and well-designed garden space can often deliver them all.

Birds need the following:

  • A safe environment
  • Places to perch
  • Shelter and nesting or brooding spots
  • Water
  • Food

So, how do we go about delivering these essentials to attract birds to our gardens? The easiest ways to do so are also the most eco-friendly and natural.

By creating good gardens that are as biodiverse as possible, filled with native planting and bird habitat, we can easily create spaces that birds wish to habitate.

Attract Birds by Making Your Garden a Safe Place  

Birds may be deterred from visiting or spending time in your garden if there are dangers there for them to contend with.

Obvious things that might keep some birds away are noisy or aggressive dogs, and especially cats that are allowed to roam, as these are aggressive bird predators. If cats rule the roost, birds may steer clear.

Of course, when you’re trying to attract birds to your garden, you should also make sure that you have an organic garden – avoid the use of anything that could pose a threat to your avian visitors.

Attract Birds by Making the Right Plant Choices

One of the most important things to remember for anyone who wants to create a bird-friendly garden that attracts plenty of bird species is that plant choices are key.

As keen gardeners will know, choosing the right plants is one of the most important things in any well-designed garden.

The right plants for the location and the specific situation, combined in the right ways, can help gardeners to deliver all the bird essentials.  When you create a welcoming, bird-friendly garden, the birds should flock in.

Thinking about creating a space that is as full of plants and as biodiverse as possible is always the number one way to draw more birds to your space.

A great place to start is researching plants that are native to your area.

Native plants are often the best options, since they will grow well in the conditions where you live, have often evolved alongside native bird species and other wildlife, and are therefore adapted to provide them with precisely what they need and want.

You should look to include the following:

  • Trees (both deciduous and evergreen, of different sizes and forms, and perhaps particular trees like fruit or nut trees to provide food sources too). You might not think you have space for a tree, but there are varieties and forms suited to even the smallest of spaces. Trees not only provide perches, shelter, nesting, and brooding spots for birds, and potentially fruits or nuts. Indeed, they also attract insects that many birds like to eat, and support a huge range of life. To add biodiversity to your space, trees are often the best way to go.
  • Shrubs (fruit and berry bushes, evergreens, and deciduous species…). Shrubs native to your area can also be very important in a wildlife-friendly garden. Many bird species will be attracted to stand-alone shrubs and especially hedgerows, which are wonderful avian habitats for a range of species. These too can provide perches, shelter, nesting and brooding sites, and a wealth of food – both plant foods and insects that can also be attracted to shrubs – especially flowering ones.
  • Climbers (against a wall or fence, or on a trellis or other structure). Cladding a structure with native climbers is a great way to give birds more cover and create a more biodiverse garden that will attract dozens of birds and a wide range of other wildlife to your space. Anything that you can do to disguise man-made structures and create a more blended, natural environment can help attract birds and other wildlife to your property.
  • Herbaceous Plants (perennials, biennials, and annuals). Flowers draw in pollinators and other beneficial insects that birds like to eat. You should aim to plant as rich diversity as possible, so you have flowers in bloom for as long as possible. Grasses and flowering plants that set seeds can provide a bounty of sustenance for seed-eating bird species… and more.

However, it’s important when trying to attract as many different birds as possible, to think beyond individual bird-friendly plants. You should think about how you can combine plants that might be of benefit to birds in your garden to create diverse, bird-attracting habitats.

Some examples of habitats that you might create in a bird-friendly garden to attract avian visitors include:

  • Small areas of native woodland/ forest.
  • Food forests that can provide a bounty of food while mimicking a forest or woodland ecosystem.
  • Native prairie or meadow planting schemes or wild, wildflower-filled lawns.
  • Native perennial beds and borders.
  • Rain gardens, bog gardens, or wetland planting schemes.
  • Dry-climate native planting schemes (sustainable xeriscaping).
  • Food-producing annual gardens/ kitchen gardens with companion planting and polycultures that attract insects and other wildlife. (You don’t always want birds to eat from your kitchen garden. But giving some ‘taxes’ to wild birds is one other way to attract them to your space.)

Thinking holistically and considering whole habitats as opposed to just plants can help you make the best choices for the birds and other wildlife with whom you share your space.

Attract Birds By Adding Water in Your Garden

Another important thing to consider when planning your garden to attract birds is adding some kind of clean water source to the space.

Of course, birds need water to drink, and for bathing. But many birds are also attracted to water due to the insect life it attracts. And many species will also be drawn to a space by the sounds of running or moving water.

To attract birds to your space, one of the best and simplest things to do is to create a wildlife pond. Plant around your pond and in it with marginal and aquatic plants. Afterward, you will have a thriving little ecosystem to draw in the birds and other wildlife.

You can further enhance your garden’s appeal to many species by adding a water feature of some kind. This might be a fountain feature or a waterfall feature trickling into a pond. This may also be a bird bath or other water feature somewhere else in your garden.

Of course, you can’t create the perfect bird-friendly garden overnight. However, there are a few other steps that you can take while you’re waiting for the eco-friendly garden you have designed and created to grow to maturity.

You can add the sound of water in a number of different ways using your birdbath.

Here are ways that anyone can setup:

  • Install a dripper, mister, or bubbler.• Install a fountain.• Install a jiggler.

A Selection Of Drippers, Misters, Bubblers, Jigglers & A Fountain

Drippers, Misters, Jigglers, Bubblers & Solar Fountains for Attracting Wild Birds

See a full selection of drippers & misters.

The Sound of Water Is Irresistible to Birds

Anything that creates the sound of water will work as a magnet as birds are attracted to water because, just as we do, they depend on it for survival.

You can set up your own dripper by up-cycling a plastic bottle:

  1. Poke a tiny hole in the bottom of the plastic bottle and fill the bottle with water
  2. Put the lid on and tighten it up, which will keep it from dripping while you suspend it over your birdbath.
  3. Loosen the lid to start the drip
  4. Adjust the rate of the drip by making the lid tighter or looser

Voila, your own homemade bird bath dripper!

Note that you don’t have to keep the dripper constantly working. Once the birds have found your birdbath, then they will remember it’s there and will use it often if it’s well-maintained.

Learn how to maintain a birdbath.

If you try this homemade dripper system, let me know how it works (I love mine)!

Provide Perches While Waiting for Plants to Grow

how to attract birds

Perching to scan the area is very important to wild birds, and is often an overlooked feature that many backyard bird watchers miss.

Have you ever noticed that wild birds seldom just fly into your feeders from a distance and start lunching right away (besides house sparrows)?

Most backyard birds will land within view of the feeding area somewhere on a fence, a bush, or a tree, and peruse the landscape first before hopping onto the feeder.

Of course, they’re doing this to check for predators or competitors before they can relax and eat.

(Although using the word “relax” isn’t a word often used to describe birds eating.)

They are usually quite alert, searching the area with their eyes for any dangers or competition.

You have probably noticed too that many birds grab a bite or two and then fly back to the perching area where they feel less exposed.

This is why places to perch are very important.

If your bird feeding area doesn’t have trees, bushes, or other places for birds to sit, then consider adding some resting places for them.

You can help your feathered friends feel welcome to your bird feeding area by providing places to perch ten to fifteen feet from your feeders.

The best way to do this would be to plant trees and bushes.

However, unless you can plant large trees or more mature-growth bushes, it could take years to have the type of perching and cover birds need.

Fortunately, there are faster methods that can be implemented while your trees and bushes grow.

This can be done by gathering a fallen branch or two and attaching them to a fence, a post, or even tied to the top of your bird feeder pole.

It will serve as the lookout point for your birds to decide whether it’s safe to visit your feeders, and will give the grab-and-go birds a place to devour what they gathered!

After Christmas, I always stick a discarded Christmas tree or two in the snow to provide better hiding places for the small birds, as we don’t have evergreen trees close to our bird feeders, only deciduous trees that are bare in winter.

Evergreens provide added protection because of their hiding ability.

Attract Birds With Supplemental Food Sources

Not all the wild birds we want to enjoy up close like to eat the same things.

In the summer season, spread out a variety of bird food in your outdoor space, such as black-oil sunflower seed, safflower seed, nyjer seed, summer suet, nectar, fresh fruit, mealworms, and millet.

In the winter months, offering the same menu if you live in the northern regions, minus the nectar and fresh fruit will give you the opportunity to attract birds faster than with one type of cuisine.

Dried fruit can be mixed with suet during the cold months when the fruit and nectar-eating birds have migrated.

To learn about the different types of bird food you can offer to attract particular birds and the best feeders to offer the food in, have a look at these wild bird feeders.

Discover More About Feeding Wild Birds

  • Best Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders – These feeders won’t allow squirrels to eat at them or destroy them by chewing.
  • Squirrel Buster Plus Review – The Squirrel Buster Plus review will provide good reasons why this feeder will be the answer to many of the problems experienced while feeding wild birds outdoors.
  • Window Feeders – An exciting way to draw backyard birds up close for a good look at their beauty and behavior.
  • Suet Feeders –  A fantastic energy source for wild birds, keeping them warm in winter and giving them the fuel they need for activities like territorial defense, mating, and raising young.
  • What are the Different Types of Wild Bird Feeders? There are many different types and styles of bird feeders available to make attracting a variety of wild birds easier and more exhilarating! Learn about them here.

All About Bird Feeders

  • How to Clean Seed Feeders – When we make the decision to draw wild birds to our backyards with feeders, baths, or houses we also must be committed to keeping them clean.
  • Where To Place Bird Feeders? – It will take some experimenting on your part to find the best location for your feeder in your own backyard. Here are some tips.
  • When To Take Down? Many people are concerned if they leave their feeders up in the autumn that wild birds will not migrate. Find out the truth.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.