How to Attract Birds
The key to attracting birds is to provide them with the three basic components they need to survive and reproduce – Food, Water, and Shelter. Providing birds with one or more of these components will bring birds to your property and a strategic approach offers the opportunity to attract specific birds. But be aware that habitat type more than any other factor, will in most cases, dictate the species of bird that visit your property.
When it comes to providing food for birds, promoting insect habitation is the most important thing you can do, as nearly all songbirds rely on insects throughout spring and summer. Scrumptious insects (in the eyes of birds at least) include: all different types of flies, ants, caterpillars, butterflies, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, beetles, mosquitoes, among many more. Birds including but not limited to Flycatchers, Orioles, Tanagers, Thrushes, Woodpeckers, Warblers, and Vireos eat insects almost exclusively over the spring and summer months, and many migrate to warmer climates (mostly in South America) in order to get more. Insects are also vital for breeding birds, as nearly all types feed insects to their nestlings. While not quite insects, other bug or bug-like creatures like spiders, snails, earthworms, and slugs also provide key food for songbirds and steps can be taken to promote habitats friendly to them as well. See: Promoting Insect Habitation for Birds and Attracting Birds with Native Plants for a more detailed look at this important topic.
Wild sources of fruit also serve as a key and in some cases almost exclusive source of food for songbirds. Fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers provide vital food for birds like the “fruitaholic” Cedar Waxwing, while thrushes (like the Eastern Bluebird) and many migratory birds will consume and in some cases literally flock to wild fruit in the fall and subsequent cooler months. See: Attracting Birds with Fruit-Bearing Plants for more on this topic.
Nuts & Seeds
Wild sources of nuts and seeds are important to the diets of many birds, including but not limited to Chickadees, Finches, Jays, Nuthatches, Sparrows, Titmice, and Woodpeckers. These birds – over the fall and winter time period especially – rely on nuts and seeds and can often be found rummaging around trees, shrubs, and flower gardens in search of them. See: Attracting Birds with Wild Nuts and Seeds for more on this topic.
Wild sources of nectar serve as the main food source for Hummingbirds and will also occasionally attract Orioles. See: Best Flowers for Attracting Hummingbirds for more on this topic.
Of course, the most commonly used bird attraction tactic is to provide food by a way of a bird feeder. Bird feeders attract the most attention in fall and winter and may bring birds to your yard on a consistent basis. The most common bird feeder visitors are: Cardinals, Chickadees, Doves, Finches, Sparrows, and Titmice. Though many migrating birds will also fill up at feeders. See: Bird Feed & Bird Feeder Types for more on this topic.
Providing songbirds with the water they need for hydration and hygienic purposes can be a simple and cost efficient way of attracting birds. A single birdbath alone will attract all different species of songbird, many of whom are not common bird feeder visitors. The list of birds known to visit birdbaths includes: Cardinals, Chickadees, Finches, Jays, Nuthatches, Orioles, Sparrows, Tanagers, Thrush, Titmice, Waxwings, and even Warblers. Outside of a birdbath, more natural sources of water like a small stream or pond will also attract birds. See: Attracting Birds with a Birdbath for more information on this topic.
Songbirds need shelter to cover and protect themselves and their nestlings from unwanted attention and harm. Trees and shrubs provide the most obvious form of shelter for birds. But note that similar to eating habitats, bird have often have specific tendencies when it comes to sources of shelter. Large trees (Oak, Maple, Sycamore, Beech) with broad foliage are often favored by: Jays, Orioles, Tanagers, Vireos, Woodpeckers, and Warblers. While shrubs and general brush are preferred when it comes to Cardinals and most species of Finch, Sparrow, and Thrush. Some species will use man-made structures for shelter and nesting. The Eastern Phoebe for example, often nests under the eaves of buildings, while a long list of birds will use Nesting and Roosting Boxes if built and placed to the correct specifications.
In winter when the deciduous trees have lost their leaves and the weather becomes harsh, evergreen trees and shrubs can be the difference between life and death for many birds. A single Eastern Hemlock tree for example, may attract dozens of desperate winter birds, many of whom (if you also provide food and water sources) may live on your property through winter. See Bird Habitats for more information on this topic.