Naturally Attract Birds and Wildlife To Your Yard

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How To Attract Birds

It was nice enough out today that I put up the bluebird houses. It’s been a cold winter here in Western North Carolina, more so than usual. I just moved last month to a new place and started thinking about attracting wildlife. I knew I had to get the bluebird houses up before the beginning of February, but there’s so much more to do!

Food for wildlife

There are several ways that you can provide food for wildlife. One is to put up bird feeders. There are many types of feeders including tube type, thistle feeders, platforms and hoppers. Choose the right type for the birds you want to attract. Tube feeders accommodate many smaller birds such as finches and sparrows. (Find tube feeders here.) Thistle feeders are made just for tiny thistle seed. Goldfinches, titmice, house finches and chickadees all love thistle. (Find thistle feeders here.) Platform feeders are low sided squares or rectangles that allow larger birds to eat. (Find platform feeders here.) Among these are towhees, cardinals and jays. Hoppers allow you to feed just about anyone. (Find them here.) You can use almost any type of feed, though black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite of almost all birds.

Another way to provide food is to grow plants that animals like to eat from. Nut and fruit trees are good for birds and deer. Last year I had deer coming to my pear tree in the back yard. Squirrels love corn and peanuts. They also love bird seeds, but if I plant corn and leave it for them, they seem to leave the seed alone. Many birds love berries that some bushes provide, such as service berry, blackberry, blueberry and roses. Yes, they love the vitamin-rich hips too!  Many animals like the seeds that come in the fall from garden plants. Among these would be thistle, echinacea, milkweed, marigold and coreopsis, rudbeckia and other small cone flowers. And during the summer, hummingbirds and butterflies feed from the flowers.

Water for wildlife

Providing water for wildlife can be as simple as allowing them to drink from a pond or stream on your property. But often, this isn’t available. As an alternative, you can put up a bird bath and provide clean water frequently. To help keep it clean and keep the algae at a minimum, drop a penny or a small piece of copper tubing into the bath. The copper inhibits algae growth and the zinc in the penny won’t harm the birds.

You can also dig a pond. It can be as small as a tire in the ground with a piece of liner over it, or as large as an acre. Either way, the birds and small animals will love you for it. If you can keep the water moving, such as with a fountain or waterfall, you’ll attract even more birds.

Freezing can be a problem for any of the water you’re providing for wildlife. You can use a heater specially made for birdbaths (like this). Or you can heat a pan and put it on top of the ice for a bit. This will melt some of the ice and provide some water. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that if there is snow, the animals don’t need water. It takes a lot of energy for a small body to melt snow to the point at which it can be used.

Cover for wildlife

Cover is one of the most important things you can provide for wildlife. It can be as simple as planting bushes in your yard. Many birds love flitting from bush to bush in search of food. Dense thickets of juniper, yew or cedar will help birds to survive. Other small animals can hide under them too, such as rabbits. In the winter this can prevent animals from freezing to death, and in the summer it can shade them from the heat or provide cover from hawks and owls.

One of the smartest things you can do with your live Christmas tree after the season is to put it outside for cover for animals. You can also provide a brush pile with downed branches and limbs. Just be sure to place it well away from the house. Small rodents can take up residence and you don’t want to provide them with an easy way to get inside.

How To Attract Wildlife

A place to raise young

All animals need a place to raise their young. Many birds will take up residence in a cavity in an old tree. By leaving these trees, you help them. Later, larger birds and sometimes ducks will enlarge the hole to make it their own. The wood duck will often make a hole larger and deeper to discourage predators.

You can put up bird houses to simulate holes in trees, such as the ones I put up today for the bluebirds. I’ve seen several in our area, so I knew they were around. The house for them, and many other birds, should be at least 3-6 feet off the ground. Nail it to a post facing a tree, but not right next to one. It should be facing an open field but faced away from prevailing winds. I set mine up to face west. And though many winds come from the west, both are facing a tree or a cane break. Water is nearby and an open field is waiting.

You can also provide birds with nest building materials. Bits of thread, yarn, fabric scraps or even lint are appreciated by some. Not all birds will use the materials provided, so don’t be discouraged if it goes untouched.

Like the movie says, build it and they will come. In the case of wildlife, provide them with food, water, shelter and a place to raise a family and they will come to your yard.

Have you found ways to attract wildlife to your yard?


photo credit to Dawn Huczek

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Laura says


    Do you have a recommendation for buying bluebird houses? I’m also wondering about wren houses. If you build your own, would you be able to provide instructions or at least dimensions? Thank you!


  2. Leslie says

    Thanks for a good article. Along with water, bird feeders, and vegetables for the bunnies, I hang suet in cages from a shepherd’s hook during the colder months. Now, that’s a party. Today alone I saw bluebirds, cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, tufted titmice, sparrows, two different woodpeckers, and some I can’t identify, all taking turns with the suet. I also put out bread for them.

    Eve, I wish had advice for you about the chipmunks coming in. I have a heavily wooded backyard, and I believe I have squirrels in my attic. 😉 I’m afraid to go up and look, so I have to find a business that can help me without harming the critters. Good luck to you with yours.

    Also, my hummingbird feeders give me great joy in the spring and summer. I put out red hibiscus to attract hummingbirds, and butterfly bushes and other flowers for the butterflies.

    • Eve says

      Leslie, for the hummingbirds, see if you can find a plant called Coral Bells. They love it more than any other flower at my house. If you cant find it I will send you a couple. They multiply easily but dont crowd out other plants. I love them. They are an old perennial that my Grandma gave me 40 years ago.

  3. Shelley says

    Rabbits live in our wood pile.I felt so sorry for them when it was -30 degrees lately, so I left piles of sunflower seeds on our front porch (they had been trying to get at the fallen seeds from the feeders in the deep snow)and three of them came every night to eat. My cats love watching them.
    The deer are starting to chew up my crab apple tree though!

  4. Eve says

    Maybe my feeders are too close to the house. They are scattered around. The closest one is probably 20 feet from the front door. I do have a fence around the garden now. The chipmunks are my biggest problem as far as bird feeding.

  5. Danut says

    Water for birds, seeds for birds but tight fence against the rabbits, and skunks…. then you garden :))

  6. kat says

    Leaving clippings like scraps of yarn etc – love this. I’ve cut my hair and my kids (and sometimes friends) at home for years. The kids always love getting to sweep up the hair and run outside with it (even in the winter months) “for the birds!”

  7. Eve says

    I’ve been feeding birds my whole life. The last couple years though I’ve had trouble with chipmunks. I think they are adorable but they are in my walls and attic I think. If I don’t feed the birds at all (just water and hummingbird feed and flowers) the chipmunks might move on? I don’t want to kill them but they’ve crossed the line. Ha ha! Please, any ideas will be appreciated!