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How to Attract Beneficial Birds

There are many birds that are helpful in the garden, and there are those that are not. Here’s how to attract the right ones.

Photo by Guido Jansen via Unsplash

I love watching all the birds fly into our yard throughout the day. There are so many different ones, all with their own beautiful features. I initially set out bird attractants just so I could smile when birds paid a visit. They have become so much more than a beautiful sight; they have helped our garden grow and thrive. We have a lot of beneficial birds and you can too by following these tips.

In order to know which birds are beneficial to your garden, you first need to know what they like to eat. Those that eat weed seeds and grubs are welcome in my garden any time. The ones that want to steal my blueberries on the other hand, need to lose my address. Here are some of the benefits of attracting birds to your garden:

  • Birds eat the garden pests you don’t want such as: aphids, mosquitos, spiders, caterpillars, and other insects.
  • They eat weed seeds, which cuts down on the time you would be weeding the garden.
  • Birds are excellent pollinators. Did you know that? Bees and butterflies are the two usual pollinators gardeners think of, but birds actually do a lot of work too.

How do you attract the right birds? There are four main necessities birds seek: food, water, nesting areas and shelter. If you can provide these, they will make themselves at home.

How to attract beneficial birds

Food

What do birds like? Insects, seeds, nuts and fruit are on the top of their dietary list. You can provide these by planting berry bushes and other plants that attract insects. A bird feeder with an array of seeds is a great way to draw them in as well. They like sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, white proso millet, cracked corn and milo. You can purchase a bird feeder and wild bird seed at most big box stores, garden centers and online. Place the bird feeder near or in your garden.

Water

Birds need a source of freshwater and a birdbath is the perfect accessory to your garden. We have one right in the middle of ours. Make sure to change the water often and to remove any mildew or growth in the birdbath. Place something in the middle that birds can land on, such as a rock or ornamental figure. We have a whimsical duck in ours. Setting smaller water features near your plants is helpful as well. We have a tiny statue with a water dish in the corn field. You can simply place a bowl of water in yours. Birds aren’t as picky as we are. They don’t care how cute the water feature is, just that it has fresh water.

Nesting areas

Cavity-nesting birds are those that build their nests inside chambers or cavities to lay their eggs. Placing birdhouses in the garden will have them giving up house hunting and moving in right away. You can make your own birdhouses, like we did, or purchase readymade ones at many retail locations. Well, we did that as well. You’ll want to hang them in trees, if you have any around your garden, or on posts in the garden. The optimal height is between four feet and fifteen feet. I didn’t measure. I simply hung ours as high as I could reach on my tippy-toes. You can add nesting materials such as fur, animal hair, straw or yarn. It isn’t a must though. Our garden is mulched with straw so they have plenty of material to make their own cushion.

Shelter

Birds need a place they can feel safe from predators. Birds like to hide in bushes, trees and birdhouses. We live in a forest and our garden is in a clearing right in the middle. This environment is nature’s ideal shelter for birds, that and the birdhouses. If you don’t have trees nearby, consider planting some or planting bushes. Thick growing plants will also provide shelter.

Photo by Mauro Pilon via Unsplash

How to keep birds away from your garden

The birds you don’t want in your garden are: crows, bluejays, pigeons, blackbirds, and cowbirds. They prey on smaller birds, corn, tomatoes, sunflowers, lettuce and a host of other delicious vegetables that you’re growing.

If you find less beneficial birds visiting your garden, and more pests, you might want to deter them from ruining your crops. Here are a few options to try. Remember, birds are actually very clever and eventually will outsmart your deterrents so you’ll want to switch things up occasionally.

Shiny items

Women tend to like shiny jewelry, but birds don’t like anything shiny. You can hang things such as old CDs (if you remember those), tin cans that you’ve cleaned, sheets of tin foil or small mirrors to name a few. These will keep birds away. Make sure to place them around the garden or the specific bed you want birds to stay out of.

Photo by Rumman Amin via Unsplash
Garden Balls

No one likes being stared at while they’re eating and that’s just what birds think when they see garden balls. They look like huge predatory eyes to them. Garden balls are actually orbital shaped garden decorations that you’ll find at garden centers, antique stores and online.

Chili Spray

You can make your own bird repellent spray by mixing crushed dried chili peppers with water and vinegar. Place the concoction in a crockpot to enfuse it or simply place it in a glass bottle in a sunny window. Then spray it around the fruits and vegetables you don’t want birds stealing. They won’t like it one bit and will move on to your neighbor’s house, or hopefully further.

Bird Netting

Bird netting is available online and in some cases, garden centers. It’s exactly as it sounds, a net to keep birds off your growing plants. You can purchase large netting that can cover your entire garden or you can buy small bags that go only around individual fruits and vegetables. They still let in the sunlight and water but will keep the birds from flying off with them.

Chicken Wire

Usually gardeners place chicken wire around gardens to keep large animals and burrowing animals out of the garden, but it can also be used over plants to keep birds off of them. Build an arch over short plants to keep birds from swooping down and grabbing a quick snack.

I love seeing all the beautiful birds. We have binoculars in the window and a bird book so we can identify them. We also have a game camera facing the garden so we can monitor what varieties of birds pay it a visit. Knowing whether you have beneficial birds or predatory birds is important before taking measures to deter any. Pick up a bird book and spend some time watching birds as they fly in. Once you’ve determined if your current visiting birds are the ones you want to call friends, you can take steps to keep them interested in your garden or you can start planning on how you are going to get them to leave.

Birds can be a great benefit and friend to gardeners or they can be added to the predator list. Here’s hoping that it’s the former visiting your garden.

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