Posted in: Homeowner tips

How to attract birds to your Midwestern home, year-round

A bird sitting on a bird feeder

Key insights:

  • Attract unique birds every season by offering different foods and feeders in your yard.
  • Remember to clean bird feeders regularly to help keep birds healthy.
  • Appreciate birds in your backyard and on local trails throughout the entire year in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

You may be familiar with popular low-maintenance landscaping tips, like creating a pollinator garden. This specific type of garden serves as an oasis for butterflies, bees and other insects. But did you know that you can also make your yard attractive to local birds?

Placing certain foods and feeders in your yard can help call in different bird species. So, whether you want to enjoy an afternoon of bird watching from your outdoor patio or your kitchen window – or you’re hoping to mosquito-proof your yard with the help of the birds – be sure to follow these homeowner tips to attract birds in each one of our four seasons.

Attract birds to your yard all summer long

After an active spring when birds fly into town, you’ll want to give birds a reason to stick around. Once summer hits, begin including a vast variety of foods available for birds in your yard. Here are summer bird food ideas from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR):

  • Shallow dishes filled with jelly
  • Fruit halves
  • Bowls of mealworm
  • Peanuts and mixed nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sugar water

Keep up with proper feeding, and you’ll likely see these species swooping through your yard this summer:

  • Chickadees
  • Doves
  • Orioles
  • Tree swallows
  • Sandpipers
  • Hummingbirds

Enjoy bird watching in fall

Throughout the fall, seasonal birds begin to migrate while year-round species stay put. Due to the changing patterns throughout the fall, you’ll want to offer a variety of foods, similar to the summer season. In addition, birds are attracted to brush piles, especially when migrating. When trimming your shrubs and trees this fall, save the cut off leaves and limbs to use in a brush pile. Ensure that the brush is placed about 10 feet away from feeders and that the pile measures a few feet in both diameter and height.

As fall approaches, consider making the trek up to Duluth to visit the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. Here, bird lovers can bask in the many species migrating through Minnesota while also taking in the beautiful autumn colors. In addition to lingering summer birds, you’ll likely have a chance to view these common fall birds at Hawk Ridge – or in your backyard:

  • Hawks
  • Bald eagles
  • Snow buntings

How to attract birds during winter

Attracting birds to your yard during this season will likely require a combination of seeds and suet. For a DIY feed option, consider smearing peanut butter on pine cones for birds to snack on throughout the winter.

Feeder placement is especially important in winter. You’ll want to place bird feeders in accessible areas that are protected from winter winds, like under the protective cover of trees. If snow accumulation is a concern, try to attach feeders to deck railings – this will also help to keep birds within your viewing range.

In the winter, expect to see these species in your backyard:

  • Chickadees
  • Cardinals
  • Northern owls
  • Woodpeckers
  • Winter finches

Calling birds to your yard in spring

While spring is typically one of the most active times for birds and other migrating or hibernating critters, there are specific tips to calling them into your yard. Check that there is plenty of water, for example in a birdbath, for visiting birds. You’ll also want to increase the amount of millet mix both in feeders and on the ground.

Be sure to disperse bird feeding locations throughout your yard when situating your feeders and food clusters. Offering various points of feeding encourages multiple species to visit your yard – and, this way you can try out different feed at each location to experiment with what food works best to attract birds in your area, too.

Lucky for bird lovers, every season hosts a variety of new birds to look for. And, Bird Watcher’s Digest informs us which species are commonly found in Minnesota and western Wisconsin throughout different times of the year. You’re likely to see these local birds in the spring:

  • Swans
  • Geese
  • Robins
  • Red-winged blackbirds
  • Warblers
  • Cardinals

Note: If a spring is exceptionally cold and rainy, there is a higher risk for birds to contract avian flu, which can be spread by well-meaning bird enthusiasts who fill their feeders and birdbaths early in the season. (When temperatures are up, the virus can't live in those shared spaces, and the risk of this flu tends to go down.)

To protect the flock that comes to your yard, check the University of Minnesota Raptor Center website before you set out your bird attractions each spring.

Additional birding tips

After putting in the effort to select the best seeds and nuts for each season, you’ll want to make sure that you clean your feeders regularly. Birds tend to get sick if old food or moisture causes bacteria and mold to build up in the feeder.

For extra ways to attract birds throughout the entire year, the National Wildlife Federation recommends:

  • Planting native shrubs and flowers – and removing invasive plants
  • Using natural lawn care products without harmful insecticides
  • Having a combination of feeders, nesting boxes and brush piles available

Whether venturing out to explore Minnesota and western Wisconsin’s bird trails and viewpoints or stocking up on food and feeders to enjoy birds in your yard – happy birding! And, get in touch with Edina Realty or your agent for more homeowner and yard tips.

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