Backyard Birders: The Best Ways To Attract The Most Colorful Birds

Every Backyard birder wants to attract as many beautiful and brightly colored birds as possible. But how do you get the colorful birds to visit you? To attract the largest variety of colorful birds, you need to have the right elements in your backyard. That is the right food, water and a variety of shelter. Now, a lot of birds will eat whatever is available, but to attract the most beautiful and colorful birds to your place you must understand their needs and cater to their taste buds. And if you want these beauties to show up often and linger in your yard between meals, you should also provide them with protective places to rest, like evergreen trees, shrubs, bushes and favorite hiding places.

So, follow these tips and the most beautiful, colorful and spectacular birds will flock to your backyard.

Cater To Their Food Desires

When choosing seeds, pick the seed types that are most desirable to a variety of colorful birds; for example, Cardinals love sunflower seeds, Finches love thistle and millet seeds, Orioles like fruit such as orange halves and grape jelly, Blue jays love raw peanuts, Woodpeckers love to eat suet cakes and Hummingbirds love nectar. Also, it’s important to keep feeders consistently full of seeds so they will rely on your yard as a reliable food source.

There are many kinds of bird foods, seeds and feeders that are made for small and large seeds. In addition to tube feeders, there is the hopper feeder, platform feeder and a suet feeder. Shelter close to your feeders is also a key factor to attracting birds.

  • Black-Oil Sunflower seeds are very popular. This small sunflower seed is high in energy and has thin shells, making it the preferred food item for a wide variety of birds, such as; Blue Jays, Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Finches, Nuthatches, and Blue Birds love this seed. And if you are new to backyard birding, Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great place to start! 


  • Thistle or Nyjer is a small, high quality, seed that goldfinches love. These beautiful gold color birds along with their cousins, the Red-hued House Finches and bright colored Buntings seem to love these seeds. Thistle seed requires a special bird (finch) feeder with smaller holes.


  • Seed mixes can be very popular because they attract a variety of birds. You might notice this can be messy because birds pick over unwanted seeds and toss them away.  “No-mess” seed mixes, that have been de-hulled, will cut down on the mess below your feeder.  They are more likely be picked up by ground feeding birds, such as Doves, Juncos and Sparrows.

  • Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and other nuts are natural, nutritious, can be a secret weapon for birds like woodpeckers, jays, chickadees, and nuthatches. Because of their costs, we wouldn't suggest offering them on a regular basis, but they can bring in a variety of beautiful new birds, including birds you haven’t seen in your yard for months or years! When you offer peanuts in a shell, birds can appear within days or even hours!


  • Fruits may seem like a summer food but across the sunbelt and on warm winter days in the north, Woopdpeckers, Jays, Orioles, Robins, Bluebirds, Catbirds and Mockingbirds can be enticed to a feeding tray with fruit. Raisins, oranges, craisins, sliced apples and bananas all work very well.


  • Suet is basically a cake of animal fat but is a very healthy source of protein for birds, especially during the winter months. When food is scarce, suet can become the lifeline for many of the birds that visit your yard. You will find a variety of suet cakes that are mixed with different types of seeds, nuts, fruits, dried flies, crickets or mealworms. Suet cakes are served through suet cages.

  • Nectar is sugar water and is generally fed to hummingbirds through a hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds are the most notable nectar-loving birds. They are some of the most beautiful and fun birds to watch in your backyard. The increasingly rare oriole is a fruit-eating bird that also enjoys nectar.

Don’t forget about the natural food source

There is also a natural way to offer a food source to attract colorful birds, without the need to constantly purchase supplemental seeds and refill the backyard feeders. It begins with planning and choosing the right bird-friendly plants, flowers, trees and bushes. This type of landscaping can sometimes be expensive, but if you plan and choose correctly, you may actually save money in the long run as these plants produce more food year after year with minimal care.

Some of the most popular natural food sources for backyard birds include:

Plants and Flowers: Purchase and plant species which are known to appeal to certain birds: Purple Coneflowers, sunflowers, milkweed, honeysuckle and sumac are just a few of the plants many birds love. Planting brightly colored flowers in your yard also draws birds, especially Hummingbirds. Butterfly bushes and azaleas provide cover for birds of all shapes and sizes, as well as nectar-rich flowers. Perennials such as columbine, bee balm, and agastache specifically attract Hummingbirds, while a wide variety of birds appreciate daisies and zinnias for their seeds. Perennial varieties can offer long-lasting growth and a stable year-after-year food source.

Shrubs: Many shrubs that produce flowers, seeds or berries can be a delicious source of natural food for many kinds of birds. As far as your landscaping design, shrubs can also be a nice mix with other plants or be a good choice for smaller yards where trees don’t grow as well. Suggested shrub height is 2’ to 5”.

Trees: There are many trees that create plentiful food sources for birds, such as; sap, nuts, buds, fruits and seeds. In addition to the many types of coniferous and deciduous trees that can feed birds, fruit trees are some of the most popular tree choices because humans can snack on many types of fruit as well.

Insects: This is a very popular food source for a variety of birds, and can be an attractor, but you must minimize pesticide use to give birds the opportunity to feed. Many backyard birders quickly learn that birds that eat on grubs, ants, aphids and all types of flying insects, and this natural treatment can be a more effective form of pest control than chemicals.

Also consider any plants and foliage that produce berries, seeds, fruits, nuts, sap and nectar for year round food, as well as to provide nesting materials.

Provide a Water Source

Providing constant access to fresh water will make your backyard more attractive to all types of birds. This is especially critical during the winter when most natural water sources are frozen.

A birdbath can do wonders for attracting your winged friends, but don’t take it for granted and do nothing, if you do put one up, you'll need to replace the water often. There are many heated bird bath options available and you can use a small heater to keep the water from freezing. You can also get a solar birdbath that uses the power of the sun to churn the water to avoid breeding pests.

If possible, create a small pond or fountain in you backyard habitat. Moving water like Drippers, small fountains, bubblers and misters are very popular and even more appealing and an excellent way to keep a high volume of beautiful birds in your yard. These water features are reasonably inexpensive and can be purchased online and at most bird supply stores.

Hideaways and Safe Havens

Birds don’t just look at your feeders, they look at your complete surrounding. Have you noticed, when birds approach most feeders, they will find a nearby bush to sit in as a “staging area” and then fly to the feeder. They will get a quick snack and will return immediately to the protection of shrubbery or trees.  So to attract more birds, it’s a good idea to place feeders relatively close to some trees and safe cover. And of course, watch out for the neighborhood cats. They like to sneak over and hide close to the feeders, so give your feathered friends some room between a cat hiding place and a bird feeder so they have time to react and get away.

And another great thing is that birds flying into trees and bushes can attract many other birds. These curious creatures listen for activity in the area and will come to your backyard to see what is going on. 

The main thing about attracting the brightest and most beautiful birds to your yard or deck is to know what they like, plan your habitat properly and let it happen over time. As these birds begin to find your place you will be amazed at how many beautiful new birds you will begin to see. Remember, it’s important to keep up with their food and water needs, especially during the winter months when you can play a major role in helping dozens of birds survive the brutal cold.  


If you enjoyed this post and want more tips and and ideas for DIY bird watchers, make sure to follow Wingspan Optics on Pinterest where you can find hundreds of DIY ideas and thousands of amazing bird photos.