Attracting Birds To The Yard

For millions of Americans, attracting songbirds to the yard is a pleasurable and satisfying hobby. Most folks feed and water birds because they enjoy the beauty and activity the songbirds bring to the landscape.

Here at, we have a somewhat different view of this pheonomenon. Songbirds are intersting and beautiful, and they certainly are fun to watch, but that is not why we go to some considerable trouble to attract as many songibrds to our yard as we can. The reason? Songbirds, if in sufficient numbers and species, will control over 50% of the pest insects in the entire home landscape!!! That is why we want to attract birds to our yard.

This section of Yardener's Helper gets into practical details about how to have a large and varied population of songbirds in your yard 365 days a year. In doing so we certainly improve the quality of life in our yard, but as important, we reduce the need to use pesticides to control bad insects and we like that idea.

I got interested in songbirds, often called “bird watching”, about the same time I got interested in gardening.  Yes, I was a “vegetable gardener” before I discovered the “yardener” in me some years later.  It is probably relevant to also note that at about that same time I got interested in serious bass fishing.  Looking back I guess it would be pretty hard to be a serious gardener and a serious fisher person and not start noticing the birds. 

 We bought bird identification books and binoculars, set up bird feeders, and started what is called a “life list”, a list of every different species you actually see.  My life list got up to 250 something.  We even started to go on birding walks and visiting places known for having lots of different species of birds.

 As I got more and more serious about my vegetable garden I realized those cute little fuzzies that flitted around my garden were very important to the health of my plants.  I realized those little songbirds were working, working at consuming thousands of pest insects trying to attack my veggies. 

 It didn’t take much time for me to learn that I could increase the population of songbirds in my yard and garden which then of course would increase the number of pest insects that were dispatched as lunch for those cute little critters.  I started feeding the birds year round.  I put up 8 or 9 birdhouses around the property.  We planted shrubs that produced berries and gave cover for those songbirds that preferred to make nests instead of living in one of our bird MacMansions. 

 I even became more tolerant of those rascals the sparrows and the starlings when I learned as much of a nuisance as they can be, they consume a large number of pest insects every day to feed their young.  After a few years of offering super hospitality to our feathery friends, the absence of pest insect problems in the vegetable garden was very, very noticeable.

 While shovels, trowels, and rakes are essential tools for growing vegetables, I consider bird feeders, bird houses, and lots of shrubs just as important a component of a healthy veggie patch. 

 So now, in the middle of winter is a good time to build that hospitality program for songbirds.  Start with two or three bird feeders; one for sunflower seeds, one for a seed mix, and at least one suet feeder.  The chickadees will be the first to order lunch.  Then you’ll see titmice, nuthatches, house finches, the gorgeous American goldfinches, and of course the cardinals among others. 

 Before the first of March, mount one or two bird houses designed for small birds so the sparrows can’t get in.  And start hitting the Internet for advice of the best shrubs for attracting and keeping songbirds in your yard.  Then you can plant the peas.






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