Benefits of Attracting Birds to Your Yard

magpie standing in grass

So, you’ve heard that many bird species are in decline and you want to help. But did you know that there are more benefits to attracting birds to your yard than you think? From flower pollination to science lessons, we’ll explore six reasons why boosting backyard birds is beneficial for you.

1. Enjoy more pollinators in your yard

Hummingbirds are fascinating U.S. avian pollinators. Most of the hummers in the U.S. winter in Mexico or Central America, making long spring and fall migrations to their breeding grounds (some over 1,000 miles). 

If you provide them with plenty of nectar-rich native flowers (tubular types are usually a favorite), they’ll reward you by pollinating these plants as they flit from flower to flower, sipping the rich nectar and bugs within.

Learn more about attracting hummingbirds to your landscape:

  • Look up your state’s native plant society online. They’ll have a native plant list with notes on which plants attract hummingbirds or other pollinators.
  • Make a hummingbird feeder. Check out this recipe for hummingbird nectar from Washington State University.
  • Read up on different hummingbird species in this colorful brochure from the U.S. Forest Service. You’ll learn about migration patterns, popular hummingbird plants, and other tips to help you create a hummingbird-friendly garden.

2. Help your local ecosystem (and view more bees, butterflies, and backyard wildlife)

If you work to create a lawn full of native plants — grasses, perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees, you’ll invite more than birds to your home landscape. The maxim “If you build it, they will come” applies. You’ll find that bees, moths, and butterflies also feast on the abundant nectar and seeds or take up residence in your bushes and trees to shelter or raise their young.

By creating a holistic, native, bird-friendly landscape, you help create a mini ecosystem in your yard that supports abundant, beneficial wildlife from the lawn to the trees.

3. Create a fun and educational opportunity for the whole family

If your kids can sing their favorite TV show theme songs, why not teach them to sing bird songs, too? Even if you’re a novice, take your kids bird watching to expand their knowledge of the natural world around them. Here are a few ways bird watching can enrich the lives of young people:

Increased awareness of the outdoor world

Oftentimes we pass through the outdoors and don’t pay attention to the world around us. Learn to listen and watch the wildlife around you to learn about the richness of life outdoors.

Travel to new places

Use bird watching as an opportunity to travel to a bird or wildlife sanctuary or attend a birding class at a local nature center. You might not know these places exist until you search for them.

Or, stay at home and observe the birds around you

Backyard birds are just as interesting as birds you find outside your property lines. Take count of how many different types of bird species you see throughout the seasons. Use a bird watching app or a guidebook to identify birds you may not know.

Enjoy feeding an avian

Kids love feeding animals, so why not add birds to the list? Over the long term, native plants are a natural food source, create bird habitat, and attract native birds. In the short term, however, store-bought birdseed and bird feeders get kids involved in caring for backyard wildlife.

There are a plethora of bird feeders to choose from. Take your pick of suet feeders, tube feeders, tray feeders, and water features or birdbaths. Use a variety of feeders that are placed at different heights, both low to the ground and high up, to attract many types of birds.  Or, try these kid-friendly DIY bird feeders from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Check out these resources to learn more about bird feeding preferences to help you get started:

Note: Don’t forget about maintenance. Clean bird feeders and water sources twice per month to keep disease at bay. A nine-to-one solution of water to bleach will do the trick.

Use binoculars

If you’ve never used binoculars before, this is a cool piece of equipment for kids and adults alike. Teach them how binoculars work through the combination of lenses, prisms, light, and our eyes — another way to incorporate a science lesson into your weekend.

Make learning fun

Make birding a fun way for your kids to apply some of the science and animal facts they’ve learned in school or books. Birding is a fun way to help kids enjoy all that they learn in school.

4. Reduce unwanted insects and rodents

Store-bought bird food and bird feeders have their place, but don’t forget about that other all-important aspect of a bird’s diet: insects. Birds are efficient insect eaters and a great source of natural pest control in your yard. One nest of baby chickadees will consume 6,000-9,000 caterpillars in one season! 

Here are a few common insects bird species eat:

  • Grasshoppers
  • Grubs
  • Caterpillars
  • Aphids
  • Weevils
  • Scale
  • Termites
  • Spiders
  • Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Ants
  • Centipedes

Many birds are beneficial, but there are instances when birds can be a pest. Remember that the right species of bird in your yard will do a world of good to reduce unwanted insects. Ask your local Cooperative Extension office how to create a symbiotic relationship in your yard between the birds and your unwanted insects.

If rodents are more of a concern than insects, larger birds can be useful. Attract raptors to your yard with perches and nesting boxes to help control these pesky critters. Raptors comprise several predator bird species:

  • Eagles
  • Falcons
  • Hawks
  • Owls

Conventional rodenticides should be avoided for home use. These potent rodent killers have deadly effects not only on rodents but on pets and other wildlife, such as predatory birds, that may eat them. (Some poisons kill rats slowly, so pets and birds may eat poisoned rodents and die from “non-target exposure” to the poison.)

As part of an IPM strategy for rodent control, consider other options, along with providing homes for predatory birds:

  • Cats

PAWS Chicago has a vibrant Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program to keep rats off its city streets

(The other side of the coin is that outdoor cats kill over 1.4 billion birds each year. Therefore, many bird advocates are not in favor of TNR programs as a primary solution to the overabundance of cats. The problem is complex, but they recommend that cat owners keep their pets indoors to protect bird populations from unnecessary loss.)

  • Physical barriers

Fill foundation cracks, floor drains, gaps, and holes where the rodents enter.

  • Clean, and eliminate food sources

If you have to clean rat droppings, wear gloves and a mask. Use a disinfectant spray and a disposable towel; don’t sweep or vacuum. Keep trash tightly covered; don’t leave food waste around. 

  • Set traps

Choose the right type for the rat and location. Keep these out of reach of children and pets.

This handy, two-page document, “Integrated Pest Management: Rats and Mice”, from the University of California gives simple IPM control strategies without resorting to rodenticides.

5. Decrease chemical use

If you’re serious about encouraging local birds in your lawn, you’ll need to eliminate chemical use and pesticides. Chemical use travels up the food chain, from insects to birds to larger animals to humans. 

Work to create a balanced ecosystem in your lawn with native ground cover, grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees, and you’ll find that the plant and animal elements will often keep themselves in balance. 

For example, insect populations reach their peak during the bird breeding season. The result? All of those insect-hungry baby birds help take down insect populations to a healthy level just by eating their lunch. 

Remember that native plants and local wildlife have survived together in your environment for centuries, keeping a variety of insect populations in check. If you have a problem with a particular animal or insect, stop and think before you reach for a chemical. There are ecologically- and bird-friendly alternatives out there.

Here’s an example of how to combat aphids using mechanical, cultural, and biological controls before you reach for a spray:

An integrated pest management (IPM) approach is effective before or when pests start to become a problem. IPM uses multiple controls simultaneously and uses chemicals as a last resort. Here are a few IPM strategies you can take to control or prevent aphids:

  • Use reflective silver mulch
  • Use a water hose for small infestations
  • Attract lady beetles with clovers, coreopsis, or sunflowers
  • Purchase green lacewing larvae and release onto your garden, or attract them with plants
  • Purchase parasitic wasps
  • As a last resort, use OMRI listed, organic pest control products, such as neem oil, insecticidal soaps, and diatomaceous earth

An IPM or chemical-free approach offers short and long-term solutions to managing unwanted pests in your landscape.

6. A use for your old, dead trees

For many homeowners, the first impulse when you see a dead or dying tree on your property is to have it removed. Here’s another option: If you have dead trees on your property, consider keeping them (safety permitting). 

Why should you consider keeping unsightly trees? These dead tree trunks (also called snags) are coveted by local bird populations. Think of it this way: Dead and dying trees, fallen logs, and cavities occur naturally and help support about 20% of forest animals, including cavity-nesting birds. These trees provide a place to nest, search for bugs, perch, or roost. 

Here are a few of the species that call tree cavities or snags home:

  • American kestrel
  • Bluebirds
  • Nuthatches
  • Owls
  • Sapsuckers
  • Woodpeckers

Before you take down your old trees, ask your arborist if it’s safe to leave some as a natural habitat and birdhouse for the local birds in your area. Even in death, these trees support life for our feathered friends.

7.  Reduce weeds

Birds and weeds are a two-sided issue. On one hand, birds can be useful allies in the fight against weeds. When there is little else available, weed seeds are a valuable food source for omnivores and granivores (seed-eating birds). Birds eat these undesirable seeds before they fall to the ground or are blown off by the wind.

On the other hand, birds are effective winged transport planes and can carry seeds in their feathers, feet, or through their feces to other places. If these seeds are viable and are transported and grow in other places, this can be a negative, especially if the species is invasive.

If you’ve got your head in the clouds, let our lawn professionals take good care of your terra firma. They’ll mow, edge, and keep your lawn and native plants in full flush all season long.

Main Photo Credit: Daniil Komov | Pexels

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.