Top 10 Garden Tips for New Birdwatchers

My TOP 10 TIPS come from my own bird-watching experience, and they’ve helped me increase the number and variety of birds in my own yard. I hope you find them helpful!

  1. Think like a wild bird: all birds need food (seed, fruit, insects, etc.), water, safe nesting sites, and shelter/cover from weather and predators. In other words, a yard with trees, shrubs, and a variety of perennials is far more attractive to birds than plain lawn or concrete.

  2. Too many blue jays, starlings, or other aggressive birds at your bird feeder? Use less sunflower seeds and add thistle seed in a 50/50 ratio to your mix. The smaller thistle seed will attract smaller birds such as chickadees, finches, etc.

  3. Some birds such as juncos and doves prefer to eat off the ground. Site your feeder where they can eat the fallen seed safe from predators lurking nearby.

  4. If you have an outdoor cat, put a bell on its collar.

  5. Many birds appreciate winter feeding when food sources are scarce. Summer feeding is rarely necessary but if you want to, go ahead. Add fruit and nuts in any season.

  6. Put up birdhouses any time of year, but birds often don’t look for new nesting places until late winter/early spring. Be patient.

  7. Many birds find a plain birdhouse preferable to a decorative one that screams, “Yummy babies inside!” Ensure the hole is deep enough to prevent predators from reaching inside.

  8. Whether sprayed on trees, shrubs, or lawn, pesticides will poison your bird’s supply of nutritious bugs. Under the right circumstances, birds do a far better job of insect control than any chemical. If you’re using a lot of pesticides, ask whether you have an insect/disease problem—or whether you have the wrong plant in the wrong place.

  9. Provide a consistent source of water. Consider locating your birdbath to take advantage of automatic irrigation—near lawn sprinklers, or run an extra dripper from your drip system into the birdbath.

  10. Locate your bird feeder where you can watch it—near a window or an outdoor bench—without disturbing the birds. Keep a bird book nearby to identify your visitors.

  11. OK, one more: plant multi-use trees and shrubs such as Pyracantha, Toyon, Viburnums, and Oaks that provide food, nesting sites, and shelter all in one!


Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to Western Birds. Houghton Mifflin Company. (There are Peterson Field Guides that cover every section of the United States.)

Sunset Books: An Illustrated Guide to Attracting Birds. Sunset Publishing Corporation.

Stokes, Donald and Lillian. Bird Gardening Book. Little, Brown and Company.

National Audobon Society:


#birdwatching #birdgardens #backyardwildlife

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