The Best Birds for Your Garden

Find out how to attract these helpful birds—and why.


how to attract woodpeckers to the gardenWoodpeckers
These well-known woodsy dwellers are more easily coaxed into your backyard than vireos. Of the 21 species found in North America, the downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers are most likely to drop by for a meal. The downy and hairy woodpeckers get up to 85 percent of their food by chowing down on wood-boring beetle and moth larvae, ants, caterpillars, adult beetles, millipedes, and aphids.

Woodpeckers might use a nest box packed with wood chips in a clearing along the edge of the woods. But they’re even more likely to nest in old dead trees (or “snags”)—so if you have one on your property, trim off most of the branches, and leave the trunk for woodpecker nests. These snags also attract and house other native creatures.

Woodpeckers will eagerly venture into your yard for suet or sunflower seeds in the off-season and eat your pests spring through fall.

Photo: (cc) New Jersey Birds/Flickr


how to attract Wrens to the gardenWrens
Brown- or gray-plumed, lively and vocal, 10 species of wrens call North America their home, living everywhere from brushy woodlands, shrubbery, and marshes to rocky canyons and even deserts.

The Carolina wren is almost exclusively an insect eater in the summer. The widespread house and Bewick's wrens also have insect-rich diets. Most wrens search trees, shrubs, and vines for caterpillars, ants, millipedes, grasshoppers, flies, snails, and beetles.

Wrens generally raise more than one brood during the season, with six to eight eggs per brood. It takes a lot of bugs to fill all those beaks, so it's fairly easy to get these prolific birds to nest in your yard. They'll take up residence in nest boxes; in empty gourds, cans, and jars; and even in clothespin bags left on the wash line!

Photo: (cc) Paul Stein/Flickr

Continue reading: Learn how to attract beneficial insects to the garden.