American Goldfinch

Once you have gained the basics of wildlife gardening, it’s easy to attract beautiful birds to your garden. All types of wildlife are in search of three primary things: food, water and shelter. Each of these requirements can be acquired through the proper flowers and plants. Gardeners who create a diversified landscape can see a large rise in the number of bird species seen throughout the year. Bird gardens can also add beauty to the landscape and a place for bird watchers to observe and learn. Gardening for Specific Birds Almost every backyard bird watcher has one species which is their favorite to spot, but refuses to visit their garden. There are several ways to attract specific species of bird to your backyard. Rare birds are more eye-catching and often most colorful, unusual and lyrical. Some desirable backyard bird species include:

  • American Goldfinch
  • Black-Capped Chickadee
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Gray Catbird
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
  • Scarlet TanagerTree Swallow
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch

Some of these species of birds are easy to attract while others are a challenge. To encourage arrival of your specific bird, first check the natural habitat of that species. Certain species of birds may not be appropriate for your geographical area or habitat. Offer the birds quality food by learning their favorite food sources. Provide adequate housing, such as bird houses, to allow for nesting and safety or incorporate nesting ledges or natural shelters, such as hollow trees or thickets, into your landscape design.

  • Bluebirds: Article discussing various landscaping methods used to attract bluebirds to your property.
  • Hummingbirds: List of flowering plants that attract hummingbirds and their bloom times.
  • American Robins: Information on how to attract robins through an appealing habitat in your yard.
  • Northern Cardinal: Brief history on the northern cardinal and tips on how to attract it with food, water and plants.
  • Carolina Chickadee: Description of the chickadee, bird house specifications and types of plants that attract chickadees.
  • Mourning Doves: Learn the types of flowers and plants that compose the diet of a mourning dove.
  • Lark Sparrow: Article about the diet, habitat and plants favored by the Lark Sparrow.
  • Goldfinches: Information on the types of native plants used in gardens to attract American goldfinches.

What Flowers and Plants Are Birds Attracted to?

Choosing which flowers, plants and trees are best for your garden depends on several factors. Gardeners should plant according to the time of the year that they provide seed, fruit or flower. Fruiting plants are generally divided into three time periods: late spring to mid-summer, late summer to fall and winter to early spring. Nesting time occurs between late spring and mid-summer. To supplement the birds’ diet to rear their young, plant red buckeye, birch, honeysuckle or bee balm. A large majority of plants produce seed or fruit in the late summer to fall. Plant selections to consider for this time period include dogwood, elderberry, cardinal flower, bittersweet and sunflowers. When food supply is limited during the winter to early spring, choose plants that will provide a steady food supply. Plants that have persistent fruit include crabapple, hawthorn, firethorn, chokeberry and shrub rose.

  • Coyote Brush: Information on how the medium-sized shrub, coyote brush, can be used in landscaping to attract low nesting birds.
  • Black Eyed Susan: Description of the Black-eyed Susan, growing conditions and the birds and butterflies it attracts.
  • Bayberry: Learn about the small bayberry tree and the 85+ species of birds attracted to this type of tree.
  • Boxwood Hebe: Find characteristics, description, adaptations and the types of creatures attracted to the boxwood hebe shrub, such as birds and bees.
  • Spice Bush: Information on the spice bush, a fast growing plant great for attracting birds and wildlife.
  • Chinese Dogwood: Benefits of planting a Chinese dogwood plant to attract birds due to its fruits that birds love to eat.
  • Sunflowers: Tips for growing sunflowers to provide color to a garden and to attract birds, especially goldfinches.
  • Hawthorn: Guide to the sturdy species of plant referred to as the hawthorn, and how it is used as a hedge plant to attract wildlife.

Bird Feeders and Birdhouses

Gardeners should remember that the species of birds drawn to their garden is often dependent on the type of food provided, as well as the placement of the feeder. Consider placing a variety of food sources and different feeders around the landscape to accommodate all needs. Food should be set out at the same time of day from spring, summer, fall and into winter. Bird houses play an important role in the conservation of birds in populated suburban locations where minimal nesting areas are available. Many species of birds require various behavioral and physical requirements so there is no one-size-fits-all birdhouse. The type of birds likely to nest in your yard is largely determined by the habitat.

Bird Watching Basics

Bird watching is an interesting and inexpensive past-time for families and individuals of all ages. Gardeners can reserve an area in their backyard just for bird feeders and enjoy watching the visiting birds throughout the year. Bird watching can also be a great learning experience as beginners attempt to identify new and unusual species.


The following bird watching tips for beginners can help you get started:

  • Bird Feeders: Learn how to select the proper types of seeds to attract various species of birds.
  • Place Your Bird Feeders Carefully: Tips for gardeners on where to place bird feeders to avoid negative effects on plants.
  • Making Bird Feeders with Natural Materials: Instructions on how to create bird feeders only using natural materials.
  • Backyard Bird Feeding: Article discussing how to properly select a bird feeder, where to place it, how to clean it and other important details.
  • Time to Think about Bird Houses: Tips on where to put a bird house and the importance of setting up a bird house for nesting.
  • Homes for Birds: List of the types of birds you can attract to nest boxes if you set up a bird house.
  • How to Set Up a Nesting Box: Guide to creating a sufficient nesting box to attract many species of birds to your yard.
  • Building a Birdhouse: Tips on planning and building a birdhouse to attract birds, such as the wood duck, purple martin, house wren and bluebird.
  • Look, listen and move very carefully when attempting to watch birds close up.
  • Keep conversation to a minimum and avoid making abrupt movements so as to not scare away the birds.
  • Watch birds for signs of alarm, such as a freeze in posture, rising of the wings or a cocked head. Stop moving until the bird has returned to a calm state.
  • Birds require water, especially in the winter when streams and ponds are frozen.
  • Listen for the calls or songs, as well as bill movements, of the bird to help identify the species.

Learn the most you can about bird watching, the various species commonly found in your area, and when to look for them. Some species of birds are most at certain times of day. In order to make the most of your bird watching, know the times of day your favorite species are out. Many species of birds can be spotted in the first several hours after dawn and briefly before sunset, such as songbirds. For many species, the prime bird watching hours are just after dawn, while others are most visible at mid-day.

  • Bird Watching Basics: Identification information for bird watchers, including details on body size, silhouette, beaks and behavior.
  • Bird Watching Tips: List of tips for bird watchers to easily observe various species of birds without disturbing them.
  • Great Backyard Bird Count for Kids: Bird watching activity for children that includes observing and counting birds to learn the various species.
  • Bird Watching for Beginners: Equipment information and tips for beginner bird watchers.
  • Equipment for Bird Watching: Essentials required for bird watching, such as a pair of binoculars and the proper clothing.
  • Bird ID: Guidance on bird identification and instructions on how to use a field guide.
  • Top Tips for Bird Watching: List of bird watching tips for beginners, including studying a good field guide.
  • Bird Song Central: Methods used to learn the different birds by their calls and songs.

Landscaping for Birds

Proper landscaping can have many advantages for birds and for the bird watcher. Sufficient bird gardens can nearly double the number of bird species that use your property. Begin by building a plan around your needs and the needs of the species you wish to attract. Develop a planting map that includes a combination of trees, flowers and shrubs that will attract a variety of bird species. For a successful bird garden, you must provide wildlife with unique food requirements, water, shelter, diversity and protection.

Interested in more? Check out our guide to attracting hummingbirds

How to attract hummingbirds