How to Attract More Birds to Your Backyard

The best ways to lay out the welcome mat for our fine feathered friends.

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How to attract birds in your backyard - bird flying to birdhouse
Photo: Joerg Lue /

How to attract birds to your backyard

Give them a place to stay

The best gardens for birds are the densest ones, so embrace nature’s mess! Plant at different heights to create layers and lure a variety of winged visitors; tangles of vines, hedges and trees will appeal to shelter seekers. To up the ante, invest in a birdhouse (or build one from scratch). Make sure it’s well ventilated, and that the perch isn’t located under the entrance hole (it will help protect eggs from intruders). Fill the birdhouse with bits of cotton, wool and lint to kick-start the nesting process. (Humans like high-thread-count bedding, and so do birds!)

Discover more brilliant uses for lint in the backyard.

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How to attract birds in your backyard - birdbath
Photo: Gillian Pullinger /

Give birds a place to bathe

When it comes to attracting birds to your backyard, the most sought-after tubs aren’t of the claw-foot variety: they’re shallow, with rocks or pieces of driftwood acting as safe landing strips, and sloping sides so the chirpers can wade. Place birdbaths in open areas of the garden to allow birds to spot wily neighbourhood felines before they get too close. And be a good host—scrub the facilities down with a strong-bristled brush (but no chemicals) and replace the water once a week.  

Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery of bird photography.

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American goldfinch at feeder
Photo: Ami Parikh /

Give birds a place to eat

When stocking up for your flock, pick food that will appeal to a large cross-section of birds. Black oil sunflower seeds are a favourite of cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches and some woodpeckers. White millet will attract sparrows, buntings, doves and blackbirds; while niger thistle is catnip for finches. Avoid mixes that feature fillers such as red millet and milo near the top of their ingredients lists. Keep seeds fresh by storing them in a cool, dry place, and don’t hoard—they will spoil. Remember that presentation really is everything. Being able to see the food will attract hungry throngs enticed by the sight of others chowing down (everyone loves a trendy eatery). Make sure your feeder accommodates about a dozen birds.  

How many of these beautiful Canadian birds have you spotted on your travels?

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Hummingbird with honeysuckle
Photo: Jim Beers /

Know Your Audience

Find out what the birds you want to attract are attracted to themselves. Here are a few favourites:

  • Hummingbirds: Honeysuckle, bleeding hearts, blue irises and red flowering currants.
  • Blue jays: Cherries and berries of all kinds, if you’re willing to share. Pine trees are tops, as they offer shelter from the wind.
  • Finches: Sunflowers, goldenrods and dandelions, so think before you weed.
  • Cardinals: Shrubs and climbing roses for nesting; and pines, spruce trees and evergreens for roosting.  

Now that you know how to attract birds to your backyard, find out which flowers attract butterflies.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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