To follow the aerial dance of a bird and to listen to its sweet song is pure joy! To enjoy this simple pleasure of life more often, create your own welcoming environment and make your yard and garden a haven for birds.

Plants that attract birds

Make your yard “bird-friendly” if you want to attract birds. The best way is to fulfill some of their basic needs – food, water and shelter. Having plants that provide both food and shelter is the most natural way of inviting them into your yard. Since birds are either insectivores or granivores (they eat insects or seeds), plant perennial and annual flowers that attract insects, and trees and shrubs that produce either seeds or small fruit. Trees, conifers, bushes, dense hedges and shrubs provide a safe haven and places to perch and rest, as well as possible nesting locations.

Deciduous trees

Speckled Alder, birch, red oak, maple, white ash, American beech, hazel, crab-apple

Conifers

White spruce, juniper, Canadian yew, tamarack, white pine, red pine, eastern hemlock, balsam fir, cedar

Fruit bushes

Saskatoon berry, hawthorn, Japanese bearberry, blueberry, cherry, honeysuckle, dogwood, cotoneaster, raspberry, current, winter berry (holly), blackberry, Russian olive, mountain-ash, white elderberry, golden elderberry, red elderberry, highbush cranberry

Perennials

Yarrow, columbine flowers, aster, blue thistle, coreopsis, purple coneflowers, daylilies, gayfeathers, cardinal flowers, heliopsis, lemon balm, bee balm, foamflowers

Annuals

Cosmos, fuchsia, royal impatiens, sunflowers, zinnia

Don’t prune or cut back your shrubs and perennials too much in the fall: the birds will eat from them all winter long!

Garden bird accessories

Even if the natural environment you’ve created is a paradise for birds, you can add commercial or artisanal accessories. If you’re trying to attract a specific species, there are accessories specially-designed for the purpose. If you don’t have a whole yard to work with, work with the space you have: a bird feeder and a saucer of water on a third floor balcony is enough to attract certain species.

Bird feeders

The ideal bird feeder is solid and easy to take apart and clean. And it should be waterproof so the seeds stay dry. Plastic feeders are not very resistant, and wood feeders only last a few years since untreated wood is very sensitive to humidity. Metal feeders are the best choice: they are sturdy and will last a long time.

Type of feeder

Birds

Features

Tray feeder

Large birds

Species that feed in groups

Species that feed on the ground

Seeds are unprotected from bad weather and rodents.

Feeder empties quickly.

Feeder with controlled flow

All birds

Large seed storage capacity, requiring less frequent filling

Seeds are released slowly

Feeder is in the shape of a small house, so esthetically pleasing

Silo feeder

Small birds

May be filled with several kinds of seeds, from sunflower seeds to thistle seeds

Several models are available: metal without a perch, with a perch or with several small perches

Square wire mesh feeder

All woodpeckers, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees

Ideal for suet blocks, food for the winter

Selective feeders

Gold finches, siskins, redpolls

Cardinals

Specific to certain species:

- Thistle feeder (very small openings for very pointed beaks)

- Swinging perch

Waterer with sugared water

Hummingbirds

Baltimore orioles

Bright colour to attract birds

With a mesh or mechanism to deter bees and wasps

Maintenance

Every two weeks: remove droppings and soggy and rotten seeds.

Throughout the year: take apart periodically, clean with soapy water and disinfect.

Choice of seeds

Seeds

Birds

Comments

Black oil sunflower seeds

  • Cardinals
  • Chickadees
  • Grosbeaks
  • Woodpeckers
  • Goldfinches
  • Nuthatches

Very nutritious

The shells that fall on the ground attract squirrels

Cracked corn

  • Chaffinches
  • Sparrows
  • Juncos
  • Sparrows

A favourite

Also attracts other animals

White millet

  • Sparrows
  • Cardinals
  • Quails
  • Sparrows
  • Partridges
  • Finches
  • Redpolls
  • Turtledoves
 

Canary seeds

  • Sparrows
  • Goldfinches
  • Finches
  • Redpolls
  • Turtledoves

Staple seed in bird feed mixes

Safflower seeds

  • Cardinals
  • Chickadees
  • Sparrows
 

Thistle seeds

  • Goldfinches
  • Finches
  • Siskins
  • Redpolls

Feeders are designed specifically for these small seeds

Seeds are more expensive

Almonds

 

  • Chickadees
  • Woodpeckers
  • Nuthatches
 

Crushed peanuts

  • Cardinals
  • Gold finches
  • Woodpeckers
  • Blue jays
  • Chickadees
  • Nuthatches
  • Siskins
  • Sparrows
 

Wheat and barley seeds

  • Red-winged Blackbirds
  • Grouse
  • Partridges
  • Pigeons
  • Blackbirds
  • Turtledoves
 

Nuts

  • Nuthatches
  • Chickadees
  • Woodpeckers
 

Suet

  • Woodpeckers
  • Nuthatches
  • Chickadees
  • Goldcrests
  • Jays
  • Starlings

Food for the winter months

You can provide seeds separately in different feeders or make your own mixes to attract particular bird species. Commercial mixes are not recommended since they tend to encourage waste: birds will toss out the seeds they don’t like in order to eat the seeds they like!

Birdbaths

Birds love water! When they discover the water source you install for them, they’ll be there daily to drink and bathe, preen and splash around. The birdbath can be either on a pedestal or hanging, in your yard or on your balcony.

  • Pour in 2.5 cm of water.
  • Add pebbles for birds with short legs.
  • Clean and pour in fresh water two or three times a week.

Birdhouses

In Eastern Canada, there are only seven species of birds that will use nest boxes. In rural areas, the tree swallow, the purple martin, the eastern bluebird and the house wren can be enticed into a bird house. In the city, the black-capped chickadee, the house sparrow and the European starling will settle in nesting boxes.

When you go to buy or build a birdhouse, these are the features you should include:

  • The entrance hole should be appropriate for the species you’re trying to attract.
  • Don’t include a perch, in order to discourage predators from entering.
  • Use high-quality wood that is naturally moisture-resistant, such as cedar. Avoid plastic or metal nest boxes since they can become too hot inside.
  • Natural and light shades are preferable, since they don’t retain heat.
  • Interior dimensions should be appropriate for the species the birdhouse is intended for.
  • The roof should have an overhang of 6 to 10 cm to protect the birdhouse from rain.
  • It should have drain holes in the four corners of the floor to let moisture escape, and ventilation holes between the roof and the sides.
  • It should be easy to open in order to clean.

To attract birds into your garden, you must first ensure that the area is safe for them. If stray cats and other predators are frequent visitors, your birdfeeders will remain untouched and your nesting boxes empty. However, if your yard is indeed bird-friendly, get ready to be charmed and entertained! Your new neighbors will be very thankful and fill the air with the happy songs of contented creatures.