Attracting and Feeding Song Birds

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The keys to attracting songbirds to your yard are simple – provide food, water and cover. Food and cover are easily provided through good plant choices. Avoid using pesticides to ensure a plentiful diet of insects. Some insecticides may poison birds. Allowing your yard to be a bit ‘messy’ is also beneficial, since many insects overwinter beneath fallen leaves, providing a high protein food source for birds during the toughest months of the year, and leftover plant debris provides wonderful nesting material in early spring. Additional nesting material includes string, yarn, fur, down, straw, moss, wool, wood shavings – do NOT give birds any synthetic materials or fiberglass as both can cause harm.

Bird houses (also called Nestboxes) are another way to provide shelter. Birdhouses only attract cavity nesting birds, such as Wrens, Chickadees, Titmice, Bluebirds, Nuthatches, Purple Martins, Flycatchers and Swallows. It’s key to know what birds are in your area in order to provide the correct size birdhouse for the birds you want to attract. Hang birdhouses out of direct sunlight with the opening facing away from prevailing rain and wind. Alternately, mount birdhouses on tall poles, well out of the reach of predators. The best birdhouses are able to be opened for cleaning in late winter or early spring each year. Discard any existing nesting material and make sure drain holes are not clogged; this is also a great time to perform any necessary repairs.  If you are lucky enough to have a birds take up residence, be sure not to disturb them – doing so is illegal, unless the birds are Starlings or House Sparrows, both of which should be evicted and any eggs destroyed as they are non-native and may outcompete native birds for limited resources. Other birds, such as Finches, Robins and Phoebes are attracted to hanging baskets or nesting platforms. Since birds are territorial, you may only have a single pair of nesting birds per season.

Consistent water sources are one of the most attractive features of a bird friendly yard. Providing water can be as easy a hanging a clean milk jug filled with water from a branch and punching some tiny holes to provide a constant drip. Another popular option is a bird bath, which can consist of any shallow container which holds water. Be sure to rinse out and refill bird baths every day to prevent the spread of illness between birds and to prevent mosquitoes. If your bird bath grows algae, use a mild bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water) and scrub thoroughly with a brush until all debris is removed. Rinse the bird bath thoroughly to ensure all traces of bleach are removed then refill. In winter, especially, a clean water source that is not frozen is essential.

The following are plants favored by songbirds for both food and shelter. Birds are attracted to bright colors, so a bird friendly landscape tends to be a colorful landscape. Since mature size varies, be sure to research which plants will best fit your space:


Alder, Ash, Birch, Black Gum, Cedar, Chestnut, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Hawthorn, Hazelnut, Magnolia, Manzanita, Maple, Mountain Ash, Mulberry, Oak, Pine, Poplar, Spruce, Sumac, Walnut, Willow, Yew

Annuals, Perennials & Shrubs

Aster, Basil, Bayberry, Beautyberry, Black-eyed Susan, Blueberry, California Poppy, Chokeberry, Columbine, Coneflower, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Cosmos, Cotoneaster, Crinkle-leaf Creeper, Currant, Dill, Elderberry, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Firethorn, Fountain Grass, Goldenrod, Gooseberry, Grape,, Honeysuckle, Huckleberry, Impatiens, Inkberry, Juniper, Kinnikinnick, Lupine, Marigold, Marjoram, Oregon Grape, Pacific Wax Myrtle, Red-twig Dogwood, Roses, Salal, Serviceberry, Snowberry, Sunflowers, Viburnum, Virginia Creeper, Winterberry Holly, Yarrow, Yaupon Holly, Zinnia


National Audubon Society

National Bird Feeding Society

Salem Audubon Society

Sapsucker Woods



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