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How to Attract More Birds Around Your Home

Millions of Americans enjoy watching birds and if you're one of them, here's how to attract more beautiful feathered friends – maybe even something rare – to your back patio or deck.

You’ll save money and attract more birds by providing bulk foods like black oil sunflower seeds without unwanted fillers. (Keith Sutton photo)

Men and women, young and old, city dwellers and country folks; everyone gets in on bird-watching fun.

Some enjoy sitting at a window watching songbirds at a feeder. Others build nest boxes so they can see the activities of bluebirds, wrens, martins and other species raising their young. Flower gardens draw hummingbirds for children to enjoy with their parents, and features like bird baths and fountains attract feathered friends looking to quench their thirst or bathe.

How to Attract More Birds Around Your Home
Some birds, like the handsome little fox sparrow, prefer to eat seed that has been scattered on the ground rather than placed in above-ground feeders. (Keith Sutton photo)

You can watch birds year-round, wherever you might be. To get the most enjoyment from this endeavor, however, you should spend time creating a haven with all the necessities—food, nesting places, water and cover—birds need to thrive throughout the seasons. Fortunately, doing so is probably easier and less expensive than you think. And there’s no need to rush your project. You can start out small and add more features as time and your pocketbook permit. Anyone can do it.

Video courtesy of Exmark’s Backyard Life

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It’s best to add variety to your feeder arrangement by including different types of feeders such as this nectar feeder for hummingbirds. (Keith Sutton photo)

The best foods for wild birds are the kinds that grow on natural vegetation in your backyard bird habitat, such as fruit, seeds, nuts and insects. But most people who work to attract birds to their backyards do so with bird feeders. A properly placed feeder filled with the right seeds or other foods will coax birds to come out and eat near windows, decks or patios where they can truly be seen and enjoyed.

When filling your feeders with seeds, be sure you don’t use bargain-basement bird seed that contains inexpensive fillers such as cracked corn, milo, oats or wheat, which appeal to very few birds. Take milo, for example. Also known as grain sorghum, it’s typically used for livestock feed and ethanol production, but it’s also a common filler in many wild-bird seed mixtures. Problem is, most birds you’re likely to see in your backyard are unlikely to eat it, and if you feed mixes containing milo, you’ve wasted money.

It’s better to buy more desirable types of bird seed in bulk so you’re feeding only what you know birds will eat. These include black oil sunflower seeds, nyger or thistle seed, peanuts, safflower and white proso millet.

How to Attract More Birds Around Your Home
Woodpeckers, like this downy woodpecker, are easily attracted to your backyard by providing a meal of suet. (Keith Sutton photo)

Keep a supply of your personal blend on hand for conveniently refilling bird feeders. By offering the best bird foods, you’ll find a greater variety of birds visiting your feeders even on the coldest days.

Just as birds have different diet preferences, different species prefer different feeder styles. By including several types of feeders in your home viewing area, and placing them at varied heights and locations, you help maximize the variety of bird species you’ll see.

Covered tray feeders, hopper feeders and tube feeders attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds. But you also should consider adding one or more mesh socks or specialty thistle (nyger) feeders for finches and siskins; suet feeders for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, warblers and jays; mealworm dishes for bluebirds, grosbeaks, mockingbirds and other insect eaters; nectar feeders for hummingbirds (in summer); jelly/fruit feeders for orioles; and low, open platform feeders for attracting ground feeders such as song, fox and white-throated sparrows, towhees, cardinals, doves and juncos.

How to Attract More Birds Around Your Home
House finches are among the many birds one might see at a backyard feeder. (Keith Sutton photo)

Ideally, you should have feeders placed in all the different feeding niches—some at ground level, some at eye level, some hanging from tree branches and some on tree trunks. Feeders in each niche will attract different kinds of birds.

Of course, you’ll want to have a clear, unobstructed view of your feeders from inside your house, so keep that in mind, too. Set up your feeders where you can enjoy watching them from a cozy, comfortable spot near a window or patio door.

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