Attracting birds to your garden can be as simple as adding a small bird feeder and a regular supply of water. The benefits of attracting feathered friends to your garden are twofold: they will help to keep away unwanted bugs, such as mosquitoes and other insects that may attack your plants, and you have the added benefit of being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy their vivid colours and lively songs all summer long.
Set up a bird feeder. There is a wide range of styles, from the inexpensive--such as a tree hanging feeder, to the slightly more expensive--a free-standing feeder. The free-standing type is better if you have squirrels in your yard because they help to prevent the squirrels from eating the birdseed. Choose a few different kinds of seeds to draw different birds. Sunflower seeds are inexpensive and will attract most kinds of birds, while finches have a particular preference for thistle seed. Birds like sparrows, robins, towhees, and doves prefer to eat on the ground and scattering cracked corn and millet will keep them coming back for more.
Grow plants to attract birds. Plants, such as shrubs and bushes, will provide shelter for birds year round and will also give them a place to nest and rear their young. Once you have established safe places for birds to nest, they will generally return from year to year. Creeping vines, such as Virginia Creeper, offer an excellent mating and nesting haven for many species of bird. Holly bushes, privet trees, and conifers are also favourites. Berry trees will attract birds in the winter time when other food is scarce. Flowers, including snapdragon, black-eyed Susan, golden rod, butterfly bush, evening primrose, marigold, larkspur, yarrow, and thistle will also attract birds. If your garden is relatively open or you don’t have room to plant shrubs or trees, then another idea is to put up nesting boxes.
Create a water feature. This will not only add visual impact to your garden, but will give birds a resource for drinking and bathing during the drier months. Water features, from a small fountain to a traditional bird bath, will attract a wide variety of birds to your garden. If you want to create something more simple, a dish of water on the ground will suffice. Float a leaf on the surface so it’s easy for birds to recognise and empty it daily to avoid attracting mosquitos.
Plant brightly coloured, nectar-giving flowers to attract hummingbirds. Plants that will attract humming birds include honeysuckle, morning glory, azaleas, lantana, red buckeye, acanthus, and butterfly bush. Hummingbird feeders filled with sugar water can be bought from local garden stores along with the mixture for filling them. Feeders usually have bright red flowers attached that the hummingbirds can readily recognise.
Larger birds will eat crumbled dry dog food, which is a less expensive alternative to seed. Adding crumbled egg shells to your food source will help birds to digest the seed and add extra calcium to their diet. Keep the bird feeder clean to avoid encouraging the spread of disease. Most birds will be nesting between March and September so this is a great time to hold off on trimming back your hedges if they are not becoming too unruly.