Blue Jay

How to Attract Birds to Your Garden

The the top 5 things you need to know

Over the past few years, I have learned so much about backyard birding from my friends at Birds Canada.

Looking to attract birds to your garden? Here are the top 5 things you need to know.

Birds do not need us to feed them

Many well-intentioned feeders of birds (versus “bird feeders”) believe that wild birds become dependent on us for food. Other than, perhaps, during the coldest days of the year and the ones with the deepest snowfall, birds are very capable of finding food from natural sources. They are much like us in that they will take the easiest path to a meal, and if it happens to be at your feeder, that is where they will congregate. The good news is that you are free to go on vacation and not keep the bird feeders full, without feeling guilty.


Use the appropriate seed

Birds are foragers: they find food in some of the most unlikely places, like the seed heads of ornamental grasses in your yard. Consider what kinds of birds you wish to attract to your yard and put out the appropriate seed in your feeders. You will find an extensive list when you visit the Bird Studies Canada website (

Provide adequate water

This is the single most impactful feature you can add to your yard in your effort to attract birds (apart from a full bird feeder). Birds need water to drink and bathe. It’s as simple as that. Once again, they have a few things in common with people. A half-barrel or a full-blown pond and stream works wonders. At last count, I have five birdbaths in my yard. They use them all.

Birds need shelter

Birds need shelter to breed and for protection from the cold, wind, snow and their enemies, such as hawks, falcons and neighbourhood cats. Especially cats. The best protection that you can provide wild birds is evergreens that grow tall and thick. Cedars, spruce and fir, for example, all work like a charm.

Keep in mind that bird feeders should be located either within a metre (three feet) of a window or more than 10 metres (33 feet) from a window. Within a metre, birds cannot build up enough speed to hurt themselves too seriously if they hit the window; placing a feeder more than 10 metres away provides birds an opportunity to veer away from the window when they realize that it is not a thoroughfare to another part of your garden.

Grow your own birdseed-producing plants

If you are one of the many people who haul bags of birdseed home on a regular basis, here is an idea: Why not grow your own? See Mark’s Plant Picks for top six birdseed-producing plants.

Mark & Ben Cullen
Mark & Ben Cullen

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster and tree advocate
and holds the Order of Canada. His son, Ben, is a fourth-generation
urban gardener and a graduate of the University of Guelph and Dalhousie
University in Halifax. Follow them at, @MarkCullen4
(Twitter) and @markcullengardening (Facebook) and look for their latest book, Escape to Reality.

Follow them at, @MarkCullen4, and biweekly on Global TV’s national morning show, The Morning Show.

By The Same Author:

Posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

Read More

An Off-Grid Muskoka Cottage Built from Scratch

An Off-Grid Muskoka Cottage Built from Scratch

and By: Fran Smelko This fall, we received an excited email from a new subscriber, Fran Smelko. We love fan mail from our community and the stories that readers share with us about how Harrowsmith inspired projects big and small. Whether you attempt Signe Langford’s...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Skip to content