There are more than 900 bird species in North America, some of which can only be found east of the Mississippi River; others only in the West. Some grace our yards with their presence only when migrating, while others live in our neighborhoods year-round. A little research online, at your public library, or at a local wild birdfeed store can teach you about some of the birds you can attract to your yard. Below are our top picks of beautiful and beneficial songbirds you might want to invite over for a backyard bird party!
5 Songbirds To Invite To Your Yard
1. Northern Cardinal
This bird’s got it all for the beginning backyard birder. Its cheery whistle and distinctive head crest and coloring make it easy to identify. The male is a stunning shade of red that he retains all year rather than molting into a dull shade for winter. That’s why this boy is prominently displayed on holiday greeting cards and winter landscape paintings. The female, while mostly a dull brown, has splashes of warm red on her wings, tail, and crest. Plus, she has the same sharp crest as her mate. Cardinals don’t migrate, so if you attract some to your yard, you could have year-round company. Listen to the female cardinal, here.
To attract them to your yard, fill your feeder with their favorite foods, which include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanut hearts
- Berries and fruit
- Suet crumple
- Grape Jelly
If you can plant berry trees and bushes, such as mulberry trees and blueberry bushes that should help make your yard even more appealing to these red beauties.
2. House Wren
What these compact birds lack in color, they make up for in a distinctive song. In addition, they eat a lot of insects, and if you’re lucky enough to get a pair of wrens nesting in your yard, they could raise a couple broods of six to eight babies in a summer, which means more insect-eating protection for you. If you aren’t sure that the little brown songbird you’re seeing is a House Wren, check the eyes. House Wrens never go out without eyeliner: a thin light line encircles each eye.
Wrens prefer live food over seeds, which means they aren’t always attracted to birdfeeders, however, they do get thirsty and have been known to visit birdbaths. They love to make nests in just about anywhere they can, so by providing some houses, they may be more willing to make their “home” in your backyard.
Wrens eat and may be attracted to:
- Peanut pieces
- Suet blends
3. White-Breasted Nuthatch
This little bird has a white face and belly, stylish gray-blue back feathers, and almost no neck. Nuthatches have a big appetite for bugs, as well as nuts and seeds. They are entertaining to watch because they will turn sideways or even upside down on feeders. The nuthatch got its name because it will wedge an acorn or nut into tree bark, and then hit it with its sharp bill to “hatch” the seed from the outer shell. Listen to their call here.
Attract nuthatches to your yard by filling your feeders with:
- Sunflower seeds
- Live mealworms
Nesting houses may also entice nuthatch pairs to breed.
4. American Goldfinch
A well-known visitor to back yards and gardens from coast to coast is the American Goldfinch. There’s no trouble spotting the male with his bright yellow plumage, black wings, and black cap. The female is a duller yellow in summer and does not have a cap. In winter, they both lose their yellow coloring and become drab brown, making them harder to identify. They are peppy little birds, flying in a bouncy pattern, and often calling out while they fly. They eat mostly seeds and have a talent for clinging to tall plants or feeders that sway in the wind as they eat.
The food they love:
- Thistle or Nyjer Seeds
- Black oil sunflower seeds
Finches love seed-bearing flowers. If you want to attract more be sure to plant sunflowers, purple coneflowers, coreopsis, cosmos, zinnias, and asters. They are also attracted to grasses and tall weedy plants.
5. Eastern Phoebe
Listen closely, and these songbirds will tell you their name. Their call is a high-pitched, raspy “fee-bee! fee-bee!” They are brownish-gray on top, whitish-gray on their bellies, and have dark heads. Phoebes like to build nests under eaves and then swoop around the yard catching flying insects for dinner. Phoebes migrate but are some of the first birds to return to northern locales in the spring.
To attract more to your yard, put up nesting boxes in a safe area away from predators. These birds prefer insects but will occasionally eat fruits or seeds.
Make your yard insect-friendly by cutting down on pesticides. If you can plan elderberry, wild grape, or Virginia creeper that may also increase your chances of seeing more Eastern Phoebes.
Judy Kneiszel is a freelance writer from De Pere, Wisconsin. She contributes to regional and national magazines and newsletters, writing on a wide variety of topics including food, farming, health, renewable energy, and running a small business.