Attracting birds to your garden

Having a bird-friendly yard has never been easier

To get birds to call your backyard home rather than your neighbours, you need to roll out the welcome mat. Follow these tips from our friends at Sheridan Nurseries:


Birds feed on seed, berries, fruit, nuts and insects. Some of these things can be provided by plant material in your own garden. Look for the bird symbol beside plants in our Garden Guide to quickly identify special ornamental plants that provide these materials.

Plants that attract birds range in size. Here are some examples:

  • Trees - Mountain Ash, Shubert Chokecherry, Birch, Crab Apple and Hawthorn
  • Smaller Shrubs - Serviceberry, Highbush Cranberry, Quince, female Winterberry, Pagoda and Gray Dogwood, Russian Olive, Honeysuckle, Elder and Sumac
  • Vines - Boston Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Wild Grape and American Bittersweet
  • Annuals - Sunflowers, Cosmos, Zinnias, Marigolds and Celosia
  • Perennials - Globe Thistle, Black-eyed Susan, Asters and Ornamental Grasses in the winter garden are valuable seed sources during a long, cold winter.
  • Berries from - Fairview, Iowa, and Spartan Juniper, female Holly, Oregon Grape, and Wintergreen.
  • Some birds love Sweet Cherries and Blueberries so be prepared to cover your fruit with black netting if you hope to harvest any for yourself!


Besides plants in your garden that naturally produce food for the birds, you can also provide a constant supply of seeds and nuts in bird feeders. There are many styles and sizes of bird feeders to choose from:

  • Wood Feeders
  • Plastic Feeders
  • Hanging Feeders
  • Pole Mounted Feeders
  • Squirrel Proof Feeders

Bigger birds like Blue Jays and Cardinals won’t land on a small feeder. Tubular feeders have small perches with small or large seed openings. There is also a tubular feeder called an "Upside Down Feeder" that is for Goldfinches only. These are the only birds that will land on a perch and flip upside down to feed from the small opening directly below.


While all the plant material listed so far can be a food source as well as a shelter and nesting site, you can also purchase birdhouses for specific birds. Birdhouses vary in size, including the diameter of the hole so other birds can’t get in. Tips:

  • Place a birdhouse in the shelter of a tree, away from predators, and facing away from prevailing winds and precipitation.
  • Purple Martins, the largest member of the Swallow family, like to live together in groups. Martin houses are available and are designed for their special needs. They are mounted on a pole and require thorough cleaning each year before a new colony will take up residence. Purple Martins are great because their primary food source is mosquitoes.


  • Feed the birds year-round, not just in winter, so you can enjoy the beauty of summer visitors too. Don’t worry about the birdseed that falls on the ground unless it germinates. Mourning Doves and Juncos love to clean up the leftovers.
  • Sunflower Seed - available in two forms: solid and striped. These types will attract all birds while the black is a particular favourite of Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Chickadees.
  • Wild Finch mixture and Niger Seed - sold in smaller quantities to specifically attract Finches.
  • Suet Cakes - an important food source to many birds in winter especially Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and Nuthatches. You can purchase a suet cage that fits a suet cake perfectly if you don’t already have one built onto your feeder.


  • Birds need water to survive as much as they need food source.
  • If you aren’t near a natural body of water, you can provide it in a birdbath, fountain, or small water garden in partial shade. Not only will birds drink the water but they will bathe in it and cool off in hot weather.
  • Change the water frequently so harmful bacteria does not build up.
  • Put out fresh water each day or invest in a birdbath heater for the winter to prevent the water from freezing.


  • Feeding stations left out in the open most likely will not attract birds as this draws attention from hawks and cats. Birds need to be able to escape quickly to nearby trees, evergreens and shrubs to hide. The dense foliage of Spruce, Pine, Fir, and Hemlock also provides ideal nesting sites as well as winter shelter.

Description: Sheridan Nurseries Sheridan Nurseries is a family-owned company with nine retail Garden Centres located in the greater Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo areas. It is Canada’s largest grower of hardy nursery stock.