Melinda's Gardening: Create a Bird Buffet

Melinda's Gardening How-To: Create a Bird Feeding Station

Follow these suggestions to attract more birds this year.

You’ll enjoy watching these winged wonders balance on the delicate stems of little bluestem, munch on purple coneflower seeds or hang upside down at the suet feeder.  Filling your landscape with bird-friendly plants is an easy way to increase your garden’s winter interest while attracting birds to your landscape. Add some feeders to increase the number and diversity of visitors. Then grab a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa and wait for the colorful show to begin. 


What You Need

  • Plants that provide food and shelter for the birds
    • Evergreens for shelter from weather and predators
      • Arborvitae
      • Junipers
      • Yew
      • Spruce
      • Pines
      • Hemlock for shady and protected locations
    • Berry plants providing food for birds in fall and winter
      • Crabapples
      • Hawthorn
      • Roses
      • Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
      • Viburnums
      • American Bittersweet
      • Chokeberry (Aronia)
      • Beautyberry (Callicarpa)
      • Cotoneaster
    • Perennials with seeds for birds
      • Purple Coneflower
      • Rudbeckia
      • Gayfeather (Liatris)
      • Monarda
      • Aster
      • Switchgrass
      • Little Bluestem
  • A variety of Feeders
    • Tray or Platform Feeders
      • attract the widest variety of seed eating birds
      • screened bottoms for adequate drainage
      • use squirrel baffles
    • Hopper or House Feeders
      • attract most birds
      • keep seeds dry and free of bird droppings
      • select one with an anti-squirrel design or use squirrel baffles
    • Tube Feeders
      • size of perch and openings determine type of birds attracted and seed to be used
      • keeps seed relatively clean
      • somewhat squirrel resistant
      • seed that collects in the bottom below lowest perch is breeding ground for mold and bacteria
    • Nyjer Feeders and Thistle Socks
      • good for attracting finches
      • purchase small size when using thistle socks to keep seed fresh
      • squirrels tend to leave these be
    • Suet Feeders
      • attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, jays & starlings
  • Bird Food
    • Check the label and purchase the mix favored by the birds you want to attract.

Select the Best Location for You and the Birds 

  • Locate feeders & plantings where you can easily view the visiting birds.
  • Place feeders within several feet of your home to reduce the risk of deadly window collisions.
  • Plant trees and shrubs within 100 feet to provide songbirds a quick escape from predators. 
  • Avoid low-growing shrubs near feeders that provide cover for outdoor cats that kill over a billion songbirds each year.Keep it Clean

Keep it Clean 

  • Clean feeders regularly to reduce the risk of disease
    • Wear rubber gloves to protect yourself and use a stiff bottlebrush or old toothbrush to clean those hard to reach places.
    • Use a one-part bleach and nine-parts water solution, commercial birdfeeder cleaner or a mild solution of unscented dishwashing soap
    • Wash the inside and outside of the feeder, perches and feeding ports. Once cleaned, rinse and dry before refilling
  • Clean the area around the feeders.
    • Remove any damp and rotten seed and fruit birds may have dropped 
    • Finish it off by adding a fresh layer
      • Cover the droppings
      • Helps suppress weeds

Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!