Attracting Birds To Your Backyard

cardinal-snowybranches-MFOverview of the Four Requirements for Attracting Backyard Birds

Wild birds require four things to be attracted to a backyard: food, water, shelter and nesting sites. If you make each of these four things available, you will be amazed at how many different species of birds become regular backyard guests.


A good food source is the most important thing you need to attract birds. Food sources can be naturally occurring or supplemental sources such as feeders. Offering several different foods will attract a greater variety of birds. Popular foods to attract birds include:

• Seeds
• Nectar
• Fruits
• Insects
• Scraps
• Nuts
• Suet

Not all foods will attract the same birds. For the best results, learn which birds are present in your local area and choose foods to attract them to your yard. Once your yard is a popular feeding site, more unusual species will become curious and you can offer them treats as well.


Water is critical to birds’ survival and adding water to your backyard will quickly attract birds. Types of water features that are attractive to birds are:

• Bird baths
• Misters
• Ponds
• Waterfalls
• Streams

Moving or flowing water will attract the most birds because it is more visible and they can hear it from a great distance. Water should be kept fresh and clean, but no chemicals should be used to purify water because they can be harmful to birds.
Birds also need water in the winter. A heated bird bath will provide drinkable water that birds do not have to use body heat to melt first. Heaters can be added to regular bird baths or special heated baths can be used.


Birds will not stay in a location where they do not feel safe, and adding backyard features that can offer them shelter will help attract them to your yard and keep them there once they have found it. Common bird shelters include:

• Trees
• Shrubs
• Scrub brush piles
• Overgrown grassy areas

Provide shelter at different levels for birds that prefer both high and low shelters. More dense plant growth is popular with small and medium bird species, while larger birds prefer perches where they can scan nearby areas for predators and other dangers. Shelter near feeders is especially popular since birds can quickly retreat if they feel threatened while feeding.
Many plants can also serve as food sources for birds, so choosing plantings wisely can not only provide shelter but will also entice birds with a natural food source.

Nesting Sites

For permanent guests, it is necessary to provide nesting sites for backyard birds. Many birds prefer to nest in natural locations, but manmade sites can also be attractive and may be easier for birders to enjoy. Nesting sites can include:

• Trees and shrubs for natural nesting sites
• Simple nesting boxes
• Functional or decorative birdhouses
• A brush pile for ground nesters

Different birds build different types of nests, from twig piles to dangling cups. For the best results, learn what types of nests your regular backyard birds prefer and offer nesting sites that are suitable for their needs.

By providing food, water, shelter and nesting sites, you can attract birds to your yard and invite them to take up residence.