How to Attract Birds Without a feeder

Author: Tammy Poppie
Updated:
Reviewed by:
yellow rumped warbler perched on branch of pine tree

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How to Attract Birds Without a feeder

Author: Tammy Poppie
Updated:
Reviewed by:
yellow rumped warbler perched on branch of pine tree

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

It’s easy to attract birds without a feeder. The key is to think like a bird. What are they attracted to naturally? How can you make your yard a place where they can accomplish their two primary goals – to survive and reproduce?

I’ve been a backyard birder for more than 25 years. During that time I’ve attracted thousands of birds. I hang feeders for my feathered friends but also have taken other steps to make my yard inviting to birds.

Before we get to how to attract birds without a feeder I’d like to explore why someone would want to in the first place.

Also, I’ll share the primary goals of wild birds. I believe this understanding makes it much easier to create a yard that’s irresistible to birds so you can attract birds without a feeder.

Why Attract Birds Without a Feeder?

Some people want to attract birds without a feeder. Some reasons for this include:

  • They believe that bird feeders attract mice, rats, or other rodents.
  • They live in an area that doesn’t allow bird feeders (such as a homeowner association rule).
  • They live among bears and don’t want the danger of attracting them near their home.
  • They don’t want to deal with the maintenance of a feeder (cleaning & refilling).
  • They don’t want to buy birdseed or other bird food.

Primary Goals of Wild Birds

Wild birds have two primary goals. To survive and reproduce. Bird behaviors are directly related to one or both of these goals.

For example, they choose a habitat that supports their ability to survive and reproduce. Such a habitat must have the food they eat, water for hydration & bathing, nesting locations, protection from predators, and extreme weather.

Another behavior is migration.

In the fall, some birds migrate to a different climate that’s better able to support survival. In the spring, some birds migrate to a different climate that’s better able to support reproduction.

Some birds remain in the same climate year-round because their species have adapted to survive there.

Survival

Survival requires food, water, shelter, and keeping out of sight from predators.

Reproduction

Reproduction entails pairing with a mate, establishing a secure nesting area, and feeding & raising the young. These activities are dependent on a territory abundant with food & water and may also require high areas for birds to perch and sing to attract a mate.

Attract Birds with Plants

In order for your yard to support birds’ primary goals of survival and reproduction, it must be abundant in food, water, shelter, nesting locations & materials. Can you think of something that offers all these things (well, except for water)? Plants!

Plants are crucial for birds’ survival and reproduction. In the wild, they rely on plants for food, shelter, and nesting/reproduction. You can plant plants in your yard to attract birds.

Plants Provide Birds with Food

ruby throated hummingbird sipping nectar from a red cardinal flower
Ruby-throated hummingbird sipping nectar from a red cardinal flower. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Plants provide natural food for wild birds. They consume nectar, seeds, fruit & berries, nuts, and insects.

  • Flowers produce nectar;
  • Grasses & flowers produce seeds;
  • Trees & vines produce fruits;
  • Trees produce nuts;
  • All plants attract insects.

Plants Provide Birds with Shelter

yellow rumped warbler perched on branch of pine tree
A yellow-rumped warbler seeks shelter from a pine tree. Photo by Eric Hillyard.

Shrubs and trees provide birds with much-needed shelter. When they’re nestled inside a dense shrub they’re able to hide from predators, escape extreme weather, or just rest.

Plants Support Birds’ Reproduction Needs

Robin with babies in nest.
Robin’s nest. Image by AnnBoulais from Pixabay

Shrubs and trees offer branches and dense foliage for birds to build their nests in and help protect the eggs and babies from other birds or wildlife.

Flowers, shrubs, and trees produce food that can be used to nourish the female while she incubates the eggs and later feeds the young. These plants also attract insects that are a key part of many young wild birds’ diets.

Birds are naturally drawn to nature’s offerings of flowers, grasses, vines, shrubs, and trees because they provide the elements they need to survive and reproduce.

You can incorporate plants in your yard to attract birds naturally. No feeder is required.

Native Plants are the Best

What are native plants? According to The Audubon Society, native plants occur naturally in the region in which they evolved.

Native plants are the best for you and the birds. Here’s why:

  1. Native plants are easier to grow because they’ve adapted to the climate conditions.
  2. Native plants are preferred by birds and their systems are well adapted to digesting and utilizing native plants’ nutrients.

The next several sections provide excellent native plant choices to attract birds. The last column of each table How it Helps Birds details the survival or reproduction element the plant offers.

For example, Blue False Indigo plants provide nectar. Since hummingbirds love nectar, you’re likely to attract hummers with this plant.

Best Flowers to Attract Birds

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
Aster, New EnglandAster novae-angliaeInsects
Aster, Sky BlueAster azureusInsects
Aster, SmoothAster laevisInsects
Bergamot (Bee balm)Monarda fistulosaNectar
Black Eyed Susan, WweetRudbeckia subtomentosaSeeds
Blazing star, denseLiatris spicataNectar, Seeds
Indigo, Blue FalseBaptisia australisNectar
Butterfly WeedAsclepias tuberosaNectar, Insects
ColumbineAquilegia spp.Nectar
Coneflower, pale purpleEchinacea pallidaInsects, Seeds, Nectar
Coneflower, purpleEchinacea purpureaInsects, Seeds
Coneflower, YellowRatibida pinnataInsects, Seeds
CupplantSilphium perfoliatumShelter, Water, Seeds, Insects, Nectar
Goldenrod, StiffSolidago rigidaSeeds, Nectar
Milkweed, CommonAsclepias syriacaInsects
Milkweed, Sullivant’sAsclepias sullivantiiInsects
Milkweed, RedAsclepias incarnataInsects
Penstemon, SmoothPenstemon digitalisNectar
Phlox, DownyPhlox pilosaNectar
White Doll’s Eyes (Baneberry, White)Actaea pachypodaBerries
Baneberry, RedActaea rubraBerries
Indigo, Yellow WildBaptisia tinctoriaSeeds, Insects, Nectar
Blue CohoshCaulophyllum thalictroidesBerries

Grasses to Attract Birds

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
IndiangrassSorghastrum nutansNest Material
Bluestem, BigAndropogon gerardiiNest Material, Shelter, blue
Bluestem, LittleSchizachyrium scopariumNest Material
Prairie DropseedSporobolus heterolepisSeeds, Nuts, Berries, Nest Material
Sideoats GramaBouteloua curtipendulaSeeds, Insects
Bur SedgeCarex grayiSeeds, Nest Material

Vines to Attract Birds

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
ClematisClematis spp.Shelter
Poison IvyRhus radicansBerries, Shelter
Trumpet Creeper (Trumpet Vine)Campsis radicansNectar
Virginia CreeperParthenocissus quinquefoliaBerries, Shelter, Fruit, Insects
Wild GrapeVitis spp.Fruit, Shelter

Shrubs to Attract Birds

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
Bayberry, NorthernMyrica pensylvanicaFruit, Berries, Shelter
BlackberryRubus fruticosusBerries
ChokeberryBerries
CotoneasterBerries
DogwoodCornus spp.Berries, Insects, Shelter
Dogwood, PagodaCornus alternifoliaBerries, Insects, Shelter
Dogwood, Red TwigCornus sericeaBerries, Shelter
ElderberrySambucus canadensisBerries
Firebush
Great Basin sagebrushArtemisia tridentataShelter, Insects
HackberryBerries
HazelnutCorylus spp.Nuts, Insects, Berries
Highbush BlueberryBerries
Highbush CranberryBerries
Holly, AmericanIlex opacaBerries, Shelter
MistletoeBerries
MulberryMorus sppBerries
Nannyberry, ArrowoodViburnumBerries, Shelter, Nest Location
PlumPrunus spp.Berries, Insects
Prickly pearOpuntia spp.Shelter
RaspberryBerries
Saw palmettoSerenoa repensShelter
ServiceberryAmelanchier spp.Shelter, Nest Location, Berries, Insects
ShadebushShelter, Nest Location
SnowberryShelter, Nest Location, Berries
Staghorn sumacRhus typhinaBerries
SumacRhus sppBerries, Insects, Shelter
ViburnumViburnum spp.Berries
Viburnum, BlackhawViburnum prunifoliumBerries
Winterberry (Holly)Ilex verticillataBerries, Shelter
Witch-HazelHamamelisNuts, Insects, Fruit
YewShelter
ButtonbushCephalanthus occidentalisNectar, Seeds

Trees (Deciduous) to Attract Birds

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps Birds
Beech, AmericanFagus grandifoliaNuts, Shelter
Ash, MountainSorbus americanaBerries, Insects
BasswoodTilia spp.Nuts, Berries, Insects, Shelter
BeechFagus spp.Berries, Insects, Nuts
BirchBetula sppShelter, Insects, Seeds
CedarCedrus spp.Seeds, Shelter, Nest Location
CherryPrunus sppFruit, Insects, Shelter
Crab AppleMalus spp.Shelter, Fruit
Dogwood, PacificCornus nuttalliiShelter
ElmUlmus spp.Berries, Nuts, Insects, Shelter
FirAbies sppShelter, Nest Location, Seeds
HawthornBerries
HickoryCarya sppInsects, Shelter, Nuts, Nest Location
HornbeamCarpinus spp.Nuts, Berries, Insects
Juniper, CalifoniraJuniperus californicaShelter, Fruit
LarchLarix spp.Insects, Seeds, Shelter
MapleAcer spp.Insects, Seeds
Oak, whiteQuercus baNuts, Insects, Cavity, Shelter
Pacific madroneArbutus menziesiiShelter, Fruit
SycamorePlatanus spp.Nuts, Shelter, Insects

Trees (Coniferous) to Attract Birds

Common NameScientific NameHow it Helps birds
Cedar, Red (Eastern)Juniperus virginianaShelter, Nest Location
HemlockTsugaShelter, Seeds, Nest Location
JuniperJuniperus sppShelter, Seeds, Nest Location
PinePinus sppShelter, Nest Location, Insects, Seeds
SpruceAbies sppShelter, Nest Location, Seeds

conclusion

You can attract birds without a feeder by incorporating a variety of plants in your yard. Plants that feed, shelter, and support bird families in the wild can do the same near your home.

There’s no denying birds depend on plants for survival and reproduction. Plants produce seeds, nectar, nuts, & fruits and attract insects that birds eat.

Plants also provide shelter for birds when the weather is extreme or a place to hide when a hawk is circling overhead.

Trees and shrubs provide strong branches to hold bird nests so parents can incubate their eggs until they hatch. This plant is home for several weeks until the last baby fledges and faces the world on his own.

Plant some native plants so wild birds can call your yard their home.

Happy Birding!

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers. Read more about Tammy