You can create a bird sanctuary for insectivores for natural pest control in the garden.
While some birds can be a nuisance in the garden, others are an essential part of a healthy garden ecosystem. We enjoy feeding birds in winter. Not only is it pleasurable to bird watch the local bird community from our window, but it’s also nice to provide a good food source when food is scarce.
However, at the first sign of spring insects and green sprouts, we mostly take the feeders down. We don’t want the birds to get dependent on being fed and forget how to be birds foraging. In fact…
We need the birds to do what they do best: eat insects!
It’s the birds that keep our insect population under control. Now… keeping the away from the berries we don’t want to to eat… that’s a challenge for another article. 🙂 For now…
Which birds eat bugs?
Best Bug Eating Birds
By Kathy LaLiberte on Gardeners.com
Below is a list of common backyard birds and some of the insect pests they eat. Next time you see or hear a bird in your yard, you can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they’re on your side, helping you keep your garden healthy and looking good.
- Bluebirds: grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, larvae, moths
- Cardinals: beetles, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, stinkbugs, snails
- Chickadees: aphids, whitefly, scale, caterpillars, ants, earwigs
- Grosbeaks: larvae, caterpillars, beetles
- Nuthatches: tree and shrub insects such as borers, caterpillars, ants and earwigs
- Oriole: caterpillars, larvae, beetles, grasshoppers
- Sparrows: beetles, caterpillars, cutworms
- Swallows: moths, beetles, grasshoppers, mosquitoes
- Titmice: aphids, leafhoppers, caterpillars, beetles
- Warblers: caterpillars, aphids, whitefly
- Woodpeckers: larvae, beetles, weevils, borers
When I see this list, it makes me sick to think of how we’ve used toxic pesticides in the past for the convenience of taking care of pest problems. Like so many people, we were thinking: “problem”… “solution”. And… the quicker the better.
We had a pest control company treat our home for years… just on an automatic subscription—but no longer. We had them inject poison to handle the carpenter bees that were tearing up the wood facia of our home… but no longer.? If they won’t do natural, we won’t use their service.
To poison insects, also poisons birds.
Instead, invite in the planet’s best natural pest control: birds!
Okay! So that’s a summary of best backyard birds for garden pest control. But if you want more, read on for a breakdown on how to attract these fine feathered garden friendlies. You’ll find these ordered alphabetically with photos as you scroll down.
Invite the Birds to Move into Your Yard
Birds need some of the basics that we all need. They need a place to call home that is protected from weather and predators. They need water nearby, food in winter and a few treats now and then, the rest of the year.
More specifically, here are some tips by breed of bird, to help you lay out the welcome mat for these insectivores to make their home near your garden.
Bluebirds eat only insects in spring, so invite them into your garden buffet to eat and sing away!
Attract Bluebirds to Your Backyard
Excerpted from BirdsAndBlooms.com, RodalesOrganicLife.com and Sialis.com
Bluebirds Nest – Dead trees provide important nesting and roosting sites and bluebirds prefer sunny, open areas with low grass and perches. In fact the perch style bluebird feeders is best as a mealworm feeder. The perfect bluebird house placement is within 50 feet of a tree, and facing it.2)http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/secret-ingredient-keeps-vegetable-beds-pest-free
Editor’s Note: our bluebird box is situated about like that: on a post facing a tree within 50 feet away at the edge of the woods. Ours is actually a martin house that the bluebirds moved into.
Bluebird Food – Bluebirds eat native berry shrubs for winter, (varies by region… ask your local nursery). To attract these brilliant blue songbirds to your yard, offer live or dried mealworms, which bluebirds find irresistible.
Where to buy mealworms? You can actually get them on Amazon, live or dried!
Enjoy the more of the bluebird’s song in this video clip.
68% of a bluebirds’ diet is made up of insects.
The largest portion of a bluebirds diet consists of grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders, and caterpillars. Bluebirds also eat ants, wasps and bees, flies, Myriapods, angleworms (Oligochaetest), snails, sow bugs (Isopodan), and black olive scales (Homoptera), moths, weevils and termites.
Water – bluebirds prefer moving water.
Predators – cats – Each year, cats kill millions of songbirds, especially fledglings in nests. Keep cats away if at all possible.
Source: BirdsAndBlooms.com3)http://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/birding-basics/attracting-bluebirds-tips-faq/#ixzz44btHEnH9, Sialis.com4)http://www.sialis.org/diet.htm and Rodale.com5)http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/secret-ingredient-keeps-vegetable-beds-pest-free
Cardinals consume some of the worst agricultural pests: codling moths, cotton cutworms, scale insects, cotton bollworms, grasshoppers, aphids, snails and slugs.
Attract Cardinals to Your Backyard
Excerpted from CardinalCorner.com
Cardinals are ground feeders, but can perch on bird feeders if the perch is long enough. Cardinals nest 3-12 feet off the ground in brushy shrubs or evergreens, and avoid birdhouses. Being ground feeders nesting relatively low to the ground their young are prey to cats. They love open water as much as any food provision, and are usually the first to feed in the mornings and last to feed at night, where they’re a bit under cover of dusk and dawn.
Cardinal’s favorite seeds are black sunflower and safflower but they will eat peanuts, millet, and cracked corn. When cardinals are not at your feeders they eat at least 51 different kinds of insects and 33 kinds of blossoms, seeds and fruits.
You can Train Chickadees to eat out of your hand.
Attract Chickadees to Your Backyard
Excerpted from BirdsForever.com
- Chickadees are in constant motion and will appreciate lots of high energy food. Offer plenty of suet!
- Plant hemlock in your backyard or plant a pine, birch, aspen or elm tree. Create dense plantings of shrubs and young sapling thickets, backed by mature deciduous and coniferous trees.8)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deciduous9)https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/coniferous
- Plant berry producing bushes such as blueberry, elderberry and bayberries.
- The Chickadee will be a frequent visitor to your feeders in the winter. Fill your tubular perching feeders or hopper feeders with black oil sunflower seed or peanut kernels.
- Chickadees are one of the easiest birds to hand tame. Offer peanut or walnut kernels in your outstretched palm and watch them up close!
- Place out a platform feeder and fill it with peanut kernels and fresh or dried blueberries.
- Offer a suet feeder placed near the trunk of a tree.
- Offer a source of water for drinking and bathing.
- Chickadees are cavity nesting birds, so you can put out a couple of chickadee specific bird houses to encourage them to nest in your backyard.
Grosbeaks devour large amounts of harmful insects
Attract Grosbeaks to Your Backyard
Excerpted from BirdsForever.com
Most species of Grosbeaks summer throughout North America, and prefer woodlands, orchards, and gardens especially if a water source is available. They feed predominately on tree nuts, seeds, berries, fruit and insects.
A Hopper Style Seed Feeder filled with their favorite black oil sunflower seed is the best way to keep grosbeaks around.
The conical shape of this bird’s beak marks it as a seed eater, but they devour large amounts of harmful insects like grasshoppers, caterpillars, cutworms and weevils. A seed feeder with suet cages and good perching space is a welcome sight to grosbeaks, who will help themselves to this high protein food.
A source of water is also important. Offer your grosbeaks water in a bird bath, with a dripper or mister.
white-breasted nuthatches eat only insects in the summer.
Attract Nuthatches to Your Backyard
Excerpted from AllAboutBirds.com
White-breasted Nuthatches are common feeder birds. You can attract them by offering large nuts such as sunflower and peanuts, and by putting out suet.
White-breasted Nuthatches eat mainly insects, including weevil larvae, wood-boring beetle larvae, other beetles, treehoppers, scale insects, ants, gall fly larvae, caterpillars (including gypsy moths and tent caterpillars), stink bugs, and click beetles, as well as spiders.
Nuthatches also eat seeds and nuts, including acorns, hawthorn, sunflower seeds, and sometimes crops such as corn. At bird feeders they eat sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and peanut butter.
White-breasted Nuthatches live amongst mature woods, and they’re more often found in deciduous than coniferous forests (where Red-breasted Nuthatches are more likely). You can also find them at woodland edges and in open areas with large trees, such as parks, wooded suburbs, and yards.
In summer, Orioles eat mostly insects for the high protein. In spring and fall they eat more fruits to fatten up for migration.
Attract Orioles to Your Backyard
Excerpted from BirdsAndBlooms.com
- Start early. Your best chance of attracting orioles is when they first arrive in early spring.
- Use the same nectar recipe for orioles as you do for hummingbirds-four parts boiled water to one part sugar. Keep nectar fresh, and don’t use food coloring.
- These birds are attracted to the color orange, so look for a sugar-water feeder specifically designed for orioles.
- Make sure your feeder has large enough perches and drinking ports. It’s not unusual for orioles to try hummingbird feeders, but their bills are often too big. Orioles love the color and taste of oranges. Offer orange halves on a branch or feeder. Orioles will also eat grape jelly. Serve the jelly in an open dish or cup, and keep it fresh.
- When placing the oriole feeder in your yard, think like a bird. Instead of hiding the feeder under an awning or tree, put it out in the open so the birds can see it while flying overhead.
- Hang your feeder near a birdbath. If your bath has a bubbler, even better. Orioles love the sight and sound of moving water.
- Put out yarn and string. Orioles and other backyard songbirds will use it for their nests.
- If at first you don’t succeed, keep at it. It often takes several seasons to find a following.13)http://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/attracting-birds/bird-nesting/how-to-attract-orioles/
Sparrows eat great quantities of weed seeds, providing natural weed control.
Excerpted from TheSpruce.com
Food: Sparrows are generally granivorous, eating a wide variety of seeds and grain. Seed-bearing flowers and grasses for birds can be natural food sources, or offering millet, cracked corn or sunflower seeds is ideal.
Seeds should be offered directly on the ground or in large, low platform or tray feeders that can accommodate foraging flocks. Leaving leaf litter intact and planting berry bushes as part of bird-friendly landscaping can also provide minor supplemental food sources for sparrows.
Water: These birds prefer to stay low and will be more attracted to ground bird baths or other source of moving water near suitable shelter such as a low shrub or dense thicket for security. Shallow places are necessary for bathing, and a heated bird bath will provide liquid water even in the coldest temperatures.
Nesting Sites: Some sparrows will nest in birdhouses with the proper entrance hole size, which is typically a larger hole. Thickets and trees are other ideal nesting spots, and providing nesting material around the yard will give the birds ample construction material to create their nests.
Swallows, have a voracious appetite for insects and can consume hundreds of insects every day.
Excerpted from TheSpruce.com
Lovely birds in flight, the most desirable characteristic of swallows, swifts and martins, is their voracious appetites. These insectivorous birds can consume hundreds of insects every day, and inviting a family of them into the backyard can provide free exceptional, organic pest control.
Food: These are insectivorous birds and do not typically visit bird feeders, and preserving healthy insect populations is essential for swallows to have an adequate food source. Avoiding the use of insecticides and pesticides is the first step, and areas of open grass should be large enough to allow the birds to skim low over them while feeding. Leaving grass slightly longer will encourage more insects for the birds to feed on.
Water: These birds typically stay near natural water sources, and a nearby lake, large pond or broad stream is essential for them to drink – they skim the water to dip their bills in for a drink instead of perching to sip. Moving water is more apt to attract swallows, swifts and martins to backyards, and a bird bath fountain, bubbler or mister can be effective in attracting their attention. They may visit larger bird baths, and will often fly through sprinklers for a quick, cool dip.
Shelter: Swallows prefer more open areas. They are agile fliers and will soar and dive around yards that have smooth curves and open spaces. Providing perching spots on wires, clotheslines or antennas will encourage them to stay nearby.
Nesting Sites: Many types of swallows, swifts and martins are cavity-nesting birds and they will readily nest in birdhouses or specialized gourds. Leaving dead trees with old woodpecker holes intact will provide additional nesting sites, and other swallow species will build their cup-shaped nests in sheltered areas under eaves on porches and decks or along rooflines. A muddy puddle – perhaps under a gutter downspout or in a sheltered location in the yard – will provide a good source of nesting material to encourage the birds to raise their families in the neighborhood.16)https://www.thespruce.com/swallow-identification-tips-387328
Sometimes young titmice will stick around to help raise younger siblings from the next brood.
Attract Titmice to Your Backyard
Excerpted from BirdsForever.com
- Plant seed and nut bearing trees such as evergreens, beechnut and oak.
- Plant berry producing bushes such as elderberry and bayberries.
- The Titmouse will be a frequent visitor to your feeders in the winter. Provide a feeding station with a hopper feeder and plenty of perching space, Or, since Titmice are agile birds, consider a stainless steel peanut or sunflower feeder. Fill it with peanut kernels or black oil sunflower seed.
- Place out a platform feeder and fill it with peanut kernels, grapes, apples or berries.
- Offer a suet feeder placed near the trunk of a tree.
- Smear peanut butter onto tree trunks and branches
An unfortunate name (won’t be seeing it on a sports team, as one writer put it)17)http://10000birds.com/titmouse.htm, and a common and nondescript bird, nevertheless, these little guys with big eyes are cute and worth more than their weight in insects consumed.
Warblers are often referred to as the butterflies of the bird world.
How to Attract Warblers
Excerpted from BirdsForever.com
Feeding Behavior: Forages from low levels up to treetops. Takes insects from twigs and foliage, hovers briefly to take items from underside of leaves, and flies out after flying insects. Males tend to forage higher and in more open foliage than females. Forages alone in winter in the tropics, defending a winter feeding territory.
Diet: Mostly insects. Up to two-thirds of diet may be caterpillars of various kinds. Warbler also feed on mayflies, moths, mosquitoes, beetles, damselflies, treehoppers, and other insects, plus spiders.19)https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/yellow-warbler
Warblers eat mostly insects and spiders. In fall and winter, they will eat seeds and berries.
Habitat – Warblers prefer brushy areas, hillside thickets, chaparral, coniferous and oak woods, orchards, parklands and forest edges. Create ample cover in the form of brush piles or overgrown thickets. Warblers will readily use this type of shelter especially during migration in the fall.
Favorite trees – cypress, pine, oak, sycamore, willows and dogwoods.
Favorite Plants – honeysuckle, sumac, blackberries, dogwoods, wild grapes, junipers, mulberries and bayberry. They also love poison ivy(!), so instead of cutting it down, consider leaving this undesirable plant for your warblers!
Offering suet is a great way to attract warblers as a great substitute for the insects they like to eat.
Running water is one of the best attractions for all warblers. A birdbath, pool-like depression or an elaborate running water system works great. The sound of water dripping is often more attractive to warblers than a birdbath.
Woodpecker drum to communicate.
Attract Woodpeckers to Your Backyard
Excerpted from article by Melissa Mayntz on TheSpruce.com
Food: Woodpeckers have a varied diet and will eat insects, nuts, berries, sap and other natural foods, as well as suet, peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, peanut butter and mealworms offered in supplemental feeders. Choose upright feeders positioned near mature trees where they will naturally forage, and, away from your other highly trafficked feeders.
Water: Woodpeckers will visit bird baths for drinks and bathing, but they typically prefer more isolated, natural baths in a quiet corner of your garden..
Shelter (and more food): Mature deciduous and coniferous trees, such as oak and pine tree are their preferred trees both for roosting and for feeding, which allows the natural shelter to do double duty as a food source. bird roost boxes, particularly in the winter.
Nesting Sites: Most woodpeckers are cavity-nesting species that will appreciate a bird roost box birdhouse or natural cavity in a dead tree. Bird houses should be mounted 10-20 feet high to attract woodpeckers, and entrance holes should be appropriately sized for the woodpecker species you hope will use the house. Take steps to keep the bird house safe, and adding a few wood chips to the interior can help encourage habitation. It’s best to clean these out after each brood has successfully fledged, and consider winterizing the bird houses to serve as winter bird shelters as well.
Woodpeckers are often shy and reticent, and even after you have planned your yard to meet all their basic needs, it may take some time for them to take advantage of your offerings.
Keep Woodpeckers from Destroying Your House: If you want to have woodpeckers around, but without destroying your house, shed, garden posts, etc., there are some more really helpful tips from TheSpruce.com.21)https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-attract-woodpeckers-386253
And… so why do the woodpeckers drum?
Unlike other songbirds, woodpeckers do not have a distinctive song, so drumming is how woodpeckers communicate, and they will drum for these reasons:
- Attracting a mate
- Advertising a territory
- Looking for food
- Excavating for a nest
The drumming is distinctly different, louder and more rhythmic than when they “peck” for food. Then they peck and dig and root around, but not the same rhythmic drumming, which varies by genus of woodpecker.
This entire topic of best birds for natural insect control and how to attract the best insectivore birds to your yard and garden is a vast topic. It seems we’ve only pecked the surface! ?
But we’ve gotta stop somewhere, so closing with this quick run through video of best birdhouse and feeder strategies, by Birdman Mel. But first…
Our best recommendation—and what we’re also doing—is to identify which pests are currently our biggest problem, (e.g., stinkbugs), and do all that we can to invite in the birds that are searching for it. It’s a win-win!
In this way, we can focus on attracting one or two type of these top 10, and over the years, gradually add in others.
Let us know what you’re doing and how you’re doing it… we’re all learning from each other here, so please join in on the conversation on the GardensAll Facebook page.
FOR MOSQUITOES: in addition to the Warbler, Purple Martins and Swallows, Geese, Terns and Ducks are also beneficial for mosquito control.
For more on organic pest control, you may also be interested in these articles.22)https://gardensall.com/organic-solutions-to-pesky-garden-critters/23)https://www.gardensall.com/natural-pest-control-for-garden-pests/
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