Are you wondering how to attract birds to your garden? It’s surprisingly easy! I love our bird-friendly backyard—I’m always finding new ways to bring in more birds. Birds naturally reduce the number of insects and pests in your yard. Plus, birds add so much charm and interest to the outdoor experience. Is there anything better than hearing sweet little chirps when you walk outside? I could listen and watch them for hours!
My minor obsession with birds began when I made a hanging bird feeder from a teacup. I’ve always enjoyed watching the birds outside, and once I started putting out food, they began to flock (even braving our energetic puppy to get to the delicious birdseed in our yard). From one bird feeder, I branched out to several, and then I started seeking out other ways to help our winged pals.
The best part of building a bird-friendly yard is that it requires little effort and offers a big payoff! With a few fun DIY endeavors (and some bird-friendly plants), you’ll be surprised at how many feathered friends start visiting. So if you’re ready to bring birds to your yard, try some of these simple methods to attract birds to your garden today.
1. Plant Bird-Friendly Plants
Plants that attract birds often have the added benefit of being beautiful. Like humans, birds are drawn to bright, fragrant flowers, herbs, and blossoming trees. Even if you don’t have space (or a green thumb) for a full formal English garden, you can add a few easy-to-grow bird-friendly plants to any space.
Get started with some of these bird-friendly plants for beginners.
Sunflowers are simple, showy, and easy-to-grow. You can look for giant sunflowers that kids will love or you can opt for simple, shorter-in-stature varieties. You can start sunflowers indoors, although they often work best when you directly sow them right in the garden.
At the end of the growing season, harvest sunflower seeds by cutting off the heads of the sunflowers, and allowing them to dry in a protected area for several weeks. Then brush over the heads to remove the seeds and allow them to further cure for a few days. Of course, if you’re growing the sunflowers to attract birds, you’ll want to leave plenty of seeds for them to harvest as well.
Bee balm is a fragrant herb also known as Wild Bergamot. I love the look and scent of bee balm. The bright pink, purple, and red flowers are eye-catching, and the plant is extremely low maintenance. It’s great for bouquets, and you can even harvest bee balm and dry it to make tea.
Bee balm also made my list of plants that repel mosquitos. It’s deer-resistant and attractive to all pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as birds. Hummingbirds especially love bee balm, making this plant a must-have for any bird-friendly garden.
Coneflowers are also known as echinacea. These classic wildflowers are a great, prolific plant to attract birds to your garden. The blossoms are ideal for cutting too, and this plant blooms all season long. Trim it down, and it comes right back.
Coneflower can spread quite a bit in some gardens, so be sure you have ample space for growing. It’s important to note that if you start coneflowers from seed, they may not bloom the first year. This is a hearty, deer and drought-resistant plant once established, and you’ll have plenty of pretty purple and pink flowers for years to come.
Asters are a late summer and early fall bloomer. These purple flowers are a pretty, bird-friendly addition to any backyard garden. The plants grow tall—up to four feet and make a lovely backdrop against a fence or wall.
These ornamental wildflowers are another perennial, so once the asters establish, you’ll have beautiful flowers to cut and bring indoors too. You can grow asters from seed (and use them in seed bombs), but they also do well when purchased as seedlings.
Elderberry has become quite popular over the last few years due to its reputation as an immune-boosting supplement (elderberries are used for winemaking too). The deep purple berries are a favorite plant to attract birds to your garden.
Elderberry is easiest to grow from cuttings or starts, similar to raspberry and blueberry bushes. The plant is shrub-like with pretty clusters of white flowers that resemble hydrangeas, giving way to tiny bunches of berries. Native to many parts of the United States, this is an easy-to-grow, bird-friendly fruit.
Is your garden big on personality, but small on space? Herbs are a great bird-friendly option, even if you’re simply hoping to attract feathered friends to your porch. If you’re new to growing herbs, you can see my series on indoor herb gardening. Obviously, to attract birds, you’ll need to move your herbs to the porch, patio, or yard.
For the most bird-friendly herb options, look for flowering herbs like hyssop, lavender, lemon balm, and sage. Interestingly, many of the bird-friendly herbs for your garden are safe for pet birds as well. You can also use them in cooking, dry them for tea (see how to dry chamomile here), and in fragrance applications as well. Herbs are very versatile!
The best plants to attract regional birds to your backyard are native plants. Since the birds you’re drawing in are native to the area, logic follows that they will prefer the plants that grow naturally in your neck of the woods.
Native flora already follows the rhythm of your seasons and thrives in your yard environment. They’re naturally low maintenance because plants that are local to your area usually withstand local pests, fungi, and other hazards as well. Ask your garden center for recommendations to find plants that thrive in your hometown.
2. Feed Birds in Your Backyard
Once you’ve put in some bird-friendly plants, it’s time to feed the birds some seed! Creating a simple bird feeder is, hands down, the easiest way to attract birds to your yard. How do you get a bird feeder? There is a myriad of bird feeder options for sale.
If you don’t want to go the store-bought route, you can make the simplest kid-friendly bird feeder out of a toilet paper roll, peanut butter, and some seed. TP bird feeders are a fun rainy-day project that your kids can whip right up.
If you’d prefer to go a step-up from the TP roll feeders, I recommend my teacup bird feeder that I mentioned before. The cup-and-saucer bird feeder was the one that got me hooked on attracting birds to my backyard. It was so easy to create. I love the look of these teacups hanging from the trees—like a scene from Alice in Wonderland.
Once you’ve found a bird feeder you like, you’ll need to pick up birdseed to fill the feeder. Most lawn and garden stores sell birdseed that’s especially attractive to your local fauna. You can find songbird mixes, colorful bird blends, and seeds that are specially formulated for different bird species.
I recommend picking up a backyard birdwatching book as well. As you start to see the different types of birds come into your yard, it’s nice to have a reference guide. Look for a book geared toward your locale. There are many kid-friendly bird watching books out there too. You may also want to check with your local Audubon Society Chapter for more reference materials to help you identify and support local birds and wildlife.
3. Add a Birdbath
Backyard birds rely on birdbaths for drinking water and for cleaning themselves. Adding a birdbath to your yard can bring in a wider variety of birds than food alone, making birdbaths fun additions to your bird-friendly yard.
Now, if you’ve ever shopped for a birdbath, you probably realize there is a vast array of options out there. So, how do you choose the best birdbath? If your primary goal is to attract birds to your yard, select a birdbath that’s easy to clean. Decorative baths with a lot of nooks and crannies can be beautiful, but they can also get very slimy and are hard to keep sanitary. You will need to change the water in your birdbath frequently to avoid getting mosquitos.
Birdbaths come in a variety of materials like metal, ceramic, glass, plastic, and concrete. They also come in a wide range of price levels. Again, choose something you like and can afford, that’s also easy to clean. Copper and glazed baths are easier to scrub with a brush or sponge regularly. Keep your birdbath out in the open where it’s safe from stalking predators (like the neighbor’s cat). Birds often like baths that are closer to the ground, but slightly elevated options are safer.
Is a birdbath worth it? Little birds love their birdbaths! Look for a bath that’s thin enough so they can perch on the edge and drink. Keep the water levels low; an inch or two is plenty. Provide a few stones or rocks so they can perch in the bath. Often, they’ll swim in the bath and use it to clean themselves daily—it’s fascinating to watch.
4. Offer Nesting Materials
Now that you’ve offered your neighborhood birds a bath, food, and bird-friendly plants, you’ll also want to provide them with materials to make a cozy nest. One of the best ways to do this, I’ve found, is to create a nesting box.
I created a simple DIY nesting box out of some fantastic wooden cigar boxes my husband picked up, chicken wire, and scraps of fabric. It’s essential to use natural nesting material like cotton rather than acrylics. Clean pet fur is a good option too. Avoid dryer lint, though, which can become clumpy.
You could include small scraps of wood, moss, cotton trim, yarn, and leaves in your nesting box as well. The birds will love these materials. Building a nesting materials box is a fun project to do with kids, and you can watch for bits and pieces of your fabric “gifts” to appear in nests around the yard and neighborhood.
Hang your box with twine from a tree or nail it up to a fence post. Don’t worry too much if the materials get a little damp or weathered; birds will still love to use the bits of scraps, especially in the spring when they make their nests.
5. Provide Simple Bird Houses
Are you ready to help the birds set up permanent residence in your home? Making a simple DIY birdhouse is such a fun activity. When I made one for my mom, it became a family project! I started with a basic house from the craft store and cut it in half. Then I embellished my two houses with a shingle roof and bright paint.
If you’re hoping to add some brightness to your yard, a few bright birdhouses will look extra cheery next to your colorful plants. Start with one or two and branch out as you have more visitors. You can hang birdhouses on trees, porch posts, or your fence—anywhere near your birdfeeder and away from predators. You may want to set a house near a window so you can watch your winged friends as they move in and start to nest.
Do birdhouses really work? It will amaze you how much birds love their little houses. It might not happen right away, but be patient, because you will likely get some resident birds in your yard. Once birds set up shop in a house, they’ll often return year after year.
Keep in mind, not every bird loves birdhouses. As you explore your yard, you may find nests in trees and other areas as well. If you notice a bird’s nest, be careful not to disturb it. Not only can human interference hurt the birds, but in the United States, it’s illegal to relocate active nests of native bird species! So, if you discover a nest somewhere less-than-ideal, contact your local wildlife control authority. When in doubt, always leave bird nest relocation to a professional.
Backyard birding is a fun and rewarding hobby. Follow these steps to attract birds to your garden, then grab your coffee, sit back, and enjoy watching your feathered friends play in the sunshine. Birds are an essential part of our ecosystem and an excellent addition to your backyard.