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How to Attract Insect-Eating Birds to Your Yard

Oak Titmouse. Photograph by Alan Vernon
Oak Titmouse. Photograph by Alan Vernon

I enjoy almost every aspect of nature: the fresh air, the breathtaking colors, the way everything works together. But I have something to admit, I absolutely hate insects.

I hate their colors, I hate the way they walk, I hate how they’re everywhere I don’t want them to be. So why would I tolerate bugs and, dare say, even attract them to my yard? I love birds. While classic seed bird feeders that hold black oil sunflower seeds are great starter feeders, they don’t attract all the species you might want to see. There’s a whole world of birds, like woodpeckers, swallows, wrens and bluebirds, you would never see if you only put out seeds.

If you’re interested in expanding the types of birds you see in your yard, here are five ways to attract insect-eating birds.

Put up mealworm bird feeders and suet feeders

The first way you can attract bug-eating birds is to put up different types of feeders. A mealworm feeder is a great way to attract these other species because you actually put insects on a platter for them. The major downside (in my opinion) is you must buy and handle the mealworms. Bluebirds, grosbeaks, wrens, orioles and robins all love mealworm feeders.

In addition, you can also put up a suet feeder. Suet cakes, depending on where you get them from, contain seeds, nuts, fruits and even bits of insects. Woodpeckers, orioles, magpies, robins, grosbeaks, many small clinging birds and blackbirds are all attracted to suet.

Install a bird bath in your yard

Almost all birds are attracted to water, so if you want a range of species to come into your yard, a bird bath is a safe bet. Be sure to get a bird bath dripper that keeps water from going stagnant because although many birds eat mosquitoes, you don’t want them breeding in your bird baths.

Hang a birdhouse or nesting box

800px-Western_Bluebird_leaving_nest_boxEven though not all birds eat from feeders, nearly all of them need a place to nest. An easy way to attract insect-eating birds that might not usually venture into your yard is to provide them with a birdhouse or nesting box. Purple Martins are one of the most beloved insect-eating birds but they usually won’t come to your yard without a place to live. Bluebird boxes are also very popular and easy to set up.

You can find more housing options, like wren birdhouses, here.

Create a compost heap

If you want to kill—er—save two birds with one stone, a compost heap has several benefits that will help nature. First, it gives you a place to get rid of food scraps without throwing them in the garbage. Second, it creates nutritious soil for your garden. Third, it becomes a natural buffet for insect-eating birds. Although it’ll have more insects than you might be comfortable with (which is why you should put it away from your house), a compost heap will attract a ton of different bird species. There are so many benefits to a compost heap, it’s almost crazy not to have one.

Plant shrubs, trees and cover

Finally, yet another tactic you can employ when trying to attract insectivores is to plant a variety of native shrubbery and trees. Trees provide sustenance for birds like woodpeckers and various plants give places for insects to breed, only to be eaten by birds.

Bonus Tip: Don’t use insecticide. These not only kill the insects birds will want to eat, but they can also pose other dangers to birds.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.