Plants with seeds, fruit and/or nectar ramp up your garden’s attractiveness to birds. Get started with 10 easy-to-grow annuals and perennials:


Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta and hybrids)

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Zinnia (Zinnia)


Beard tongue (Penstemon)

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea and hybrids)

Foxglove (Digitalis)

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Salvia (Salvia)


Don’t be fooled by inexpensive seed mixes. Birds kick out the stuff they don’t like, which means a lot of waste. If you’re going to have just one feeder, put out black-oil sunflower seed, which attracts a great variety of birds. Joan Casanova, spokeswoman for Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co., which supplies seven Backyard Bird Shops in the Portland-Vancouver area, said their most popular combo is the Special Feeder mix, with ingredients such as sunflower, peanuts and pecans. Suet is an inexpensive, high-energy addition to the feeding agenda. Kris Wetherbee, author of “Attracting Birds, Butterflies & Other Winged Wonders to Your Backyard,” also suggests putting out nutritional kitchen waste (rice, whole-grain pasta or bread, cheese — stale is OK, but nothing moldy) and fruit (oranges, apples, berries, soaked dried fruit).

You can save money by buying hen scratch (very small cracked corn, milo, wheat) in bulk at feed stores.


Tube feeders are best for birdseed; go for specially designed holders for suet and flat feeders for fruit. Feeders that open at both top and bottom are easy to clean and seed doesn’t cake in the bottom and mold.

Place something — plant saucer, tray, pie plate (weighted down) or recycled birdbath — beneath feeders to catch seed. Clean feeders when seed starts to mat at the bottom. Once a month or so, rinse with 1 part bleach combined with 10 parts water.


Birds get thirsty, and they don’t mind a bath now and then. Providing water is as easy as putting out a saucer or as elaborate as building a pond.


Plant shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, to give birds a hiding place. Make sure feeders and houses are 8 to 12 feet above the ground and protected from wind. Hanging on a pole rather than a fence or tree makes it easier for the birds to avoid predators.