Skip to content

Attracting birds

2012 August 27
by Karen Purcell

Providing food in birdfeeders can attract birds even in the middle of the city.

Birds are so beautiful and colorful! They are also exciting to watch — especially from up close. Their behaviors can be fascinating. Did you know that watching birds in your neighborhood can decrease your stress? You can attract birds of many different species to your corner of the world. By attracting birds you’ll also be helping them. It is easy and it can make your life richer!

So how can you attract birds? It’s easy! We’re going to give you lots ideas.

The easiest way to attract birds is by offering them food! You can put up bird feeders or plant bird-friendly plants that will give them seeds and nectar.

Cedar Waxwing enjoying berries from a dogwood. Photo by Bill Heban Rossford.

If you are going to provide food, you’ll want to think about what you want to  attract—and where you want to put your bird feeder. Feeders filled with sunflower seeds attract lots of different kinds of birds – like colorful cardinals, goldfinches, and friendly chickadees.

In cities it is best to use feeders with small perches suited for smaller birds that will not easily spill seed on the ground. Spilled food may attract squirrels  and larger flocks of unwanted birds. Nyger seed feeders work well – but Nyger seed may be expensive.

Baltimore Oriole on an orange. Image by Victor Loewen

Nectar feeders are also great for attracting birds! They attract hummingbirds and sometimes Orioles. All you need to do is mix 3 parts hot water to 1 part sugar (don’t put food coloring in it)—make sure the water has cooled – place it outside and wait for your hummingbirds to arrive!!  You can put some bright potted flowers next to the nectar feeder to help attract the birds!

In spring you can also slice up some oranges and put them on trees, balconies, or railings. You might be lucky enough to attract an oriole!

Brown-eyed Susans are wonderful bird-friendly flowers!

If bird feeders are not permitted in your building. Try a natural bird feeder! A simple potted sunflower or other flower that produces seeds like brown-eyed susans, cosmos, or cone flowers,  placed on your window sill may provide food for birds. Just make sure you let them go to seed! Let the flowers die and produce seed – and then watch the birds enjoy! Sunflowers are fun, colorful, and easy to grow. At least 43 bird species feed on sunflower seeds!

Flowers that produce nectar are also a fun way to attract birds like hummingbirds. Try flowers like nasturtiums or trumpet vines. Birds are also attracted to plants that provide berries and fruit! Make sure you offer them lots of different choices!

American Robins enjoying a birdbath.

Birds also need fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing.  You can offer birds water by placing a shallow container filled with water on the ground or slightly off the ground. A good drinking fountain for birds should be like a shallow puddle (nature’s true birdbath). Place some sand in the bottom of the bath and arrange a few branches or stones in the container, so birds can stand on them and drink without getting wet (this is especially important in the winter).

Choose your nestbox carefully!

Finally placing a nest box (sometimes called a birdhouse) in your neighborhood is a great way to attract birds. When you think of birds – you usually think of birds making their nests on a branch of a tree, right? But birds nest in all kinds of places. It depends on the species of birds. Some birds nest on trees, others nest in the ground, some nest in nooks and crannies on cliffs, and some nest inside holes or cavities in trees. Some birds nest in any crazy spot that provides shelter from the weather and predators!

You can help cavity nesting birds like chickadees, wrens,  swallows or even bluebirds  by putting up a nest box. But, be careful! Lots of

This photo of a nest in a urinal is a great example of birds nesting in crazy spots! Thanks to Vincent Obrien for the photo.

nestboxes sold are not great for birds. You want to make sure that it is built of untreated wood and it should have  ventilation holes (so it doesn’t get too hot), sloped roofs (so the rain doesn’t get in the box), rough interior walls (so the young birds can climb out when they are ready to fly), and drainage holes (just in case rain does get in).  Nest boxes are an amazing way to watch birds up close. You’ll see the parents building the nest and later on flying back and forth with food for their young. You’ll hear the chicks peeping loudly for food –and if you are lucky, you might even see them take their first flight!

Whatever you decide to do to help birds in your neighborhood. Start small. Choose one or two things to do…and soon you’ll be hooked.


Thanks to Kaytee Avian Foundation

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS