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A favorite pastime of mine is sitting in my backyard and watching the robins and doves playing in the bushes that border my backyard fence. Chickadees, cardinals and finches are also in colorful abundance in and around the feeders. A favorite visitors is a woodpecker who perches himself perpendicular on one of the feeder poles itself. Able to enjoy a varied assortment of birds on a daily basis year-round, is both a rewarding and relaxing hobby. Did I mention it is also an easy and quite affordable hobby for nearly anyone to do?

When first moving in to our house, one of the first things we did was to hang a feeder of sunflower seeds. We could have stopped right there, and with even just the one feeder would have had a few birds to watch. We were greedy though. We wanted to attract many birds. We wanted to attract all different species of birds. So what did we do?

First off, we found out what type of birds were native in our area. Then we had to find out what seeds and foods attracted these birds. Next, water, in the form of a birdbath, became a priority. While ours is a store bought version, it could have been a more elaborate pond, or something as simple as a saucer of water. So lets look and see what will be needed to attract birds to your backyard.

Seeds, Foods and Feeders

Sunflower seeds, wild mixed birdseed, and thistle are all excellent choices of feed. You can also purchase a variety of pre-mixed specialty foods at many local grocers, feed stores, or discount stores. Oranges sliced in half can be stuck on branches to attract cardinals and others. Make sure and replace every few days. Other natural foods include apples, popcorn, and raisins. A favorite and easy mix to do at home:

One cup peanut butter
Wild mixed birdseed, approximately 1-½ cups
¼ cup raisins
Mix and form into ball shape. Refrigerate until firm. Place in a net bag, like the ones store onions come in, and hang in a tree. One of these will last only about three days, but woodpeckers and several other birds seem to love them!

The feeders that the food is placed in is also important. Thistle needs to be in a feeder made specifically for it, with very tiny openings, so that the birds being attracted to this seed can get to it, but larger birds cannot. Other birdfeeders do not need to be elaborate. A platform to place the food on and a cover to keep the food dry. More important is where you place them. Try and not crowd them together, or squabbles will occur. For the safety of the birds, place them in an area away from neighborhood cats, or at least make them as inaccessible as possible. Keeping the area around the feeders raked up from falling seed will also help keep the birds up on the feeders and not on the ground where they can become attractive targets for cats and the occasional bird chasing dog. Squirrels can also be a problem, (if you enjoy watching them as much as the birds, make them their own feeder) and you can purchase or make ‘collars’ for the feeder poles to defer them from getting into the feeders. Be warned though, that this does not always work. People have different opinions as to the colors used in feeders and houses. Some say bright colors need to be avoided, but one of my most visited feeders is bright yellow. Keep color in mind though if you find a feeder used more or less than another one. A last word on feeders that many people do not consider. Keep them clean. Birds will avoid feeders that have accumulated seed that has molded or soured.


As said earlier, water should be provided for your feathered friends. Whether you purchase or make your bath, keep these rules in mind. Water should be no more than two or three inches deep. Keep water clean as some birds will ‘bathe’ in it, while others are just looking for a refreshing drink. Always place a few stones in the birdbath to give the smaller birds something to perch on. The bath itself should be on firm ground and not tipsy.

Other Tips for Attracting Birds

Birds like bushes to perch in, to find shade, to hide. Different plants and flowers will attract birds. Marigolds, zinnias, bachelor buttons and daisies all seem to be favorites.

Fruit bearing bushes are always a good choice. Raspberry and blackberry bushes are an excellent choice. For additional fun, try keeping a notebook of the bird activity in your yard. Looking back at this will give you ideas on what to keep feeding or things to try new. Enjoy!