Wild birds add so much beauty and life to your garden. There's nothing better than working in the garden, the sun beating down on your back, and being serenaded by a choir of birds. If you have a feeder, birdbath, or nesting box set up, you can also spend hours watching them and being entertained by their antics.
In addition to the joy of watching and hearing them, birds offer one more advantage to gardeners: several of them are pest control experts. They will feast on the slugs, beetles, mosquitoes, and other insects that inhabit your garden. And, while they'll eat some of the "good guys" as well, they'll help put a dent in any pest infestations you're dealing with. It's a small price to pay.
Below are five of the best birds for ridding your garden of insect pests. Attracting even just one of these birds will have a beneficial impact on your garden.
Woodpeckers, including the downy woodpecker and hairy woodpecker, are voracious eaters of crawling insects in trees. Think carpenter ants, borers, and other wood-boring pests. They drill holes with their powerful little beaks, and feast on the insects they find. While people worry about woodpeckers damaging the wood siding on their house, woodpeckers prefer deciduous trees over wood siding. They are worth attracting to your garden.
How to Attract Them: To attract woodpeckers to your garden, install upright bird feeders, a birdbath, and appropriate nesting boxes. Having "snags" (dead trees left standing) nearby is also an excellent way to attract them.
Bluebirds eat a wide variety of insects. If their beauty wasn't enough to convince you to attract these vibrant birds, consider the fact that they are voracious feeders, especially during nesting season. Along with the Eastern bluebird, the Western bluebird and mountain bluebird are also worth attracting to your garden, depending on where you live, of course.
How to Attract Them: You can attract bluebirds to your garden by setting up appropriate nesting boxes, having water available, and by stocking feeders (they love mealworms). They also love berries, so if you plant sumac or elderberry, you'll have a perfect food source for them.
All orioles, including the Baltimore, Bullock's, and orchard oriole, eat insects as well as fruit and nectar.
How to Attract Them: Planting the right types of trees and shrubs is a huge factor in attracting these beautiful birds. They prefer to nest in poplar, cottonwood, oak, elm, or willows, so having at least one of these trees nearby will be a big help. You'll also want to plant fruiting plants such as berry bushes, brambles, and fruit trees as a food source.
Sparrows are a common sight in many urban and suburban gardens, and it's a good thing they are. These little birds eat insects from plants and the ground, as well as seeds, including weed seeds.
How to Attract Them: Sparrows need trees and shrubs for nesting. A birdbath would be a useful feature as would a platform feeder filled with sunflower seeds. In addition to these items, you may want to consider planting plants that provide seeds for birds, such as coneflowers, cosmos, goldenrod, marigolds, and sunflowers.
The cardinal's song is one of the most cheerful sounds in nature, and these beautiful birds are common in many gardens. They are definitely worth attracting since they feed insects to their young.
How to Attract Them: While the nestlings eat insects, adult cardinals are seed and fruit eaters. Having a feeder stocked with black oil sunflower seeds and offering fruit (either by growing fruiting shrubs or trees or by placing fruit on a tray feeder) are both good ways to attract these beautiful birds.
One Final Tip
You'll want to avoid the use of insecticides if you want to attract birds to your garden. By doing that, and providing the right food, water, and nesting conditions for the birds you want to attract, you'll soon have plenty of appreciative helpers in your garden.
Woodpecker and Sapsucker Damage on Trees. University of Maryland Extension.