Using Food to Attract Birds to Your Garden

The presence of birds creates a pleasant atmosphere for the home by filling the space with an array of colorful creatures foraging and singing in the garden. Birds are attracted to an area when there is an abundance of food supply readily available to them especially during the winter months where the shortage of seed, insects and fruits make foraging difficult for them. Birds require food as a source of energy and warmth during the winter months.

There are various ways to attract our feathered friends to your garden, and these projects need not cost you an arm or leg to do.

Make a simple bird feeder.

You can make a very simple bird feeder by hanging a coconut shell filled with food on a sturdy tree, patio or plant. Alternatively you can also use a transparent plastic tube of container (which can be recycled from your kitchen use or purchased from a shop) and do the same.

Here is an example of how to make a simple hanging bird feeder:

You will need:

  • A small plastic jar (a jam jar works well).
  • dowel (round wood).
  • wire or string.
  • Waterproof glue.
  • Wash the plastic jar and make sure it is dry.
  • Cut a hole at the side of the jar about 1 inch in diameter about 1 to 1.5 inches above the bottom of the jar.
  • Cut a small hole that is big enough to insert the wood dowel (make sure it is a snug fit that\’s not too loose) below the 1 inch hole.
  • Insert the dowel into the small hole and glue it in place.
  • Run string or wire through holes made on the middle of the lid in a loop that will allow you to hang the feeder onto a support or tree.
  • Fill the jar with food for the birds and cover the lid

Platform Feeder

Sink a pole into the ground topped with a wooden platform, making sure that the platform is at a comfortable height for you to reach.

To stop seeds from rolling off the platform, nail edges around the platform.

Tip: To reduce waste and save you the trouble of cleaning up a mess (birds are messy eaters), use or build a feeder that has a tray underneath that will catch spills.

Do not overfeed too many birds at one time. Mass feeding is unsanitary and even dangerous to the birds themselves. You want to attract birds and encourage them to forage for their food, not literally hand feed them that they become totally dependant on your feed. Attracting large flocks of birds can cause harm to the birds by promoting the spread of contagious diseases, bacterial infections and even death.

What to feed the birds with

Fill the platform with bird treats, such as birdseed, fruits and nuts. Occasionally, you can also include crumbs from stale bread, cookies or cake. Birds also thrive on dog food, especially the large birds, and this is a cheaper alternative to seeds.

Toss in some egg shells too as birds use these grits to digest seed. Crumble the eggshells and mix them in with the seed as a grit-alternative. They are also great calcium supplements for the birds.

Below is a list of foods that you can provide the birds with. Certain birds have different preferences according to area and food availability. When you know what their preferences are it will help you attract specific birds to your garden.

Type of foodBirds they attractInformation
Sunflower seedsGold Finches, House Finches, Purple Finches, Cardinals, Bluejays, Scrub Jays, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Mourning Doves, Buntings, Grosbeaks, Juncos and SparrowsHigh energy and nutritious food source packed with protein and fat. These seeds also leave less waste than some other seeds.
Thistle SeedsGoldfinches, House Finches, Purple Finches, Redpolls, Siskins, Juncos, and Mourning Doveshighly nutritious seed rich in protein and fat.
Safflower SeedCardinals, Mourning Doves, Finches, Grosbeaks, Jays, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Song Sparrows, and White-throated Sparrows like SafflowerHigh in protein and fat
MilletHouse Finches, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Buntings, Juncos, Towhees, Blackbirds, Pigeons, Song Sparrows, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, and English SparrowsPopular mixed blend filler; use the white variety
CornBluejays, Mourning Doves, Juncos, Blackbirds and Sparrows eat corn. Upland game birds like Pheasants, Turkeys, Partridge, pigeons, starlings, cowbirds and Grouse love corn
PeanutsBluejays, Scrub Jays, House Finches, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Magpies, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, White-crowned and White-throated SparrowsHigh nutritious for birds; they also attract squirrels (if you want them in your garden, opt for roasted peanuts as raw peanuts are harmful to them.
FruitsRobins, Thrushes, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Orioles, Tanagers, Waxwings, Bluebirds, Kingbirds, Woodpeckers, Crows, Blackbirds, Sparrows, some WarblersUse apples, oranges, grapes, berries, bananas, melons, and raisins (do not mix too much raisins)
Suet bird feedWoodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees and TitmiceRich in proteins and fat; these are ideal for wintering birds.
Peanut butterMourning Doves, Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and House FinchesHigh in protein, fat and oil
MealwormsBluebirds, Wrens, Robins, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches and TitmicePreferred live, only if you have the stomach to watch the birds eat worms.

More Reading:

Feeding Wild Birds:


Inviting Wildlife into Your Garden: