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Attracting Birds to Your Garden


Attracting birds to your garden can be a rewarding endeavor. Food/water, birdhouses and natural shelter help birds flourish and allow you to have a close, intimate view of a wide variety of species.

Food
One central element in attracting birds is a food source. There are a variety of feeders and seeds available today which will lure a vast array of birds. The basic feeder categories include hopper, platform/tray, suet and thistle. Depending on the placement of these feeders and corresponding seed types used, such as black oil sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, safflower, shelled peanuts and suet, it is possible to attract just about any species of bird to your garden. Some birds like to eat at ground level, while others prefer to be 4-5 feet off the ground. Most prefer to feed in a protected location with trees and shrubs around them that is safe from predatory cats, hawks and nuisances such as squirrels, sparrows and starlings.

Water
Water sources are another way that your garden can be attractive to birds. Gently moving water especially is something that birds are drawn to and can be as simple as a dripping hose or as sophisticated as a water fountain, as long as the fountain is relatively quiet. A bird bath or natural depression in the ground which stays moist are other common attractions. Birds prefer a shallow, rough-bottomed pool of still water no deeper than 2-3”. Placing a few surface stones in the water for smaller birds to land on is also a good idea. Make sure that the pool is close to a faucet for refilling and cleaning purposes and, much like a feeder, has natural shelter from predators and other undesirable creatures.

Birdhouses and Nest Boxes
Birds value sheltered places where they can breed their young and are safe from predators and the elements. In order to make your garden attractive to a wide spectrum of bird species, houses and nest boxes are both great shelter options. Depending on which varieties of birds you wish to attract, placement is essential. Woodpeckers, for example, prefer houses or nest boxes which are securely mounted to trees and have good ventilation and water drainage, whereas martins require large pole-mounted apartments 12-18 feet high in open areas away from trees. It is extremely important not to overcrowd your garden with birdhouses or nest boxes and to check the ones you have frequently to make sure that squirrels or snakes have not taken up residence in them.

Natural Shelter
Achieving a balance in your garden between natural and human-made shelter for birds will serve to attract the widest variety possible. Smaller birds lives, in the northeast especially, are dependent on quick evasion from predators and the elements, therefore they spend most of their time under dense cover. Conifers and other evergreens as well as dense deciduous plants naturally shelter birds from the elements. Evergreens and shrubs such as white pines, arborvitae, spruce, junipers, cedars and hollies provide winter protection and food. It is essential to arrange cover plants to protect against the prevailing wind direction in your area and to mix in smaller trees and shrubs among the protected site. Always use plants that are native to the region as opposed to ornamental plants for maximum effect.

Plants that attract birds or help shelter them:
Annuals
Ageratum
Bachelor Buttons
Calendula
Cosmos
Dianthus
Love-in-a-Mist
Marigold
Moss Roses
Poppies
Sunflower
Zinnias
Perennials
Aster
Columbine
Garden Mums
Threadleaf Coreopsis
Delphiniums
Coneflower
Globe Thistle
Sunflower
Coral Bells
Statice
Black-eyed Susan
Goldenrod
Ornamental Grasses
Groundcovers & Vines
Fiveleaf
Bearberry
Bittersweet
Honeysuckle
Boston Ivy
Virginia Creeper
Grapes
Wintercreeper
All Rugosa Varieties
Small Fruits
Blueberries
Raspberries
Currants
Gooseberry
Strawberries
Shrubs
Amur Maple
Serviceberry
Chokeberry
Barberry
Gray Dogwood
Redtwig Dogwood
Cotoneaster
Winterberry
Juniper
Honeysuckle
Bayberry
Nanking Cherry
Chokecherry.
Buckthorn
Smooth Sumac
Staghorn Sumac
Elderberry
Viburnum