Texas Living

For the Birds: 10 Fun Ways to Bring More Birds to Your Backyard

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 2.13.17

Snoopy’s pal Woodstock may have the most famous birdhouse. Featured in cartoonist Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip and his animated TV specials, the enterprising, yellow bird takes good care of himself inside his elaborate, little home. But in the reality of Texas backyards, birds may enjoy a little help turning their house into a home.

Providing places for birds to splash, play, and dine gives nature lovers a chance to enjoy natives to the state and those just passing through on their way south. Here’s a look at 10 low-tech, budget-friendly ways to attract and watch feathered friends.

  1. Reuse water for birdbaths. Don’t waste the water your air conditioning unit collects. At home, urban wildlife biologist Kelly Simon, who works in the Austin area, redirects the water that drips from her unit’s condensation pipe into a reservoir she created for the birds to play and splash. You also can simply place a bucket beneath the pipe and use the collected water to fill existing birdbaths, as seen in this video.
  2. Get creative with upcycled household objects. At Sadie Seasongoods, ideas abound for creating a veritable playground for the birds. Hang a glass casserole dish cover and fill it with water for an instant birdbath. Suspend a Bundt pan filled with birdseed. Set a pie tin within a circular, woven basket to create a nest-like “pool.” More ideas at sites such as diyncrafts.com show you how to make your own feeders from teacups and saucers, old milk cartons, and mason jars. Birds & Blooms offers a plan for constructing a birdhouse out of an old coffee can and scrap wood with these instructions. Get inspired!
  3. Go old school to feed the birds. Show kids and grandkids how to create an old standby DIY bird feeder: a pinecone slathered in peanut butter, rolled in birdseed, and suspended from a branch.
  4. Follow a plan: Use construction blueprints. DIYers who love creating havens for specific types of birds know that different species require different style houses. Get plans online to build houses for purple martins, bluebirds, and more at My Backyard Plans.
  5. Embellish store-bought birdhouses. If hammers and nails aren’t your thing, dress up store-bought birdhouses with mosaic tiles, broken pieces of pottery, moss, or twigs. These add charm to your outdoor space and provide a warm nesting spot for your winged friends.
  6. Plant red plants to keep hummingbirds humming. Talk to local naturalists or birdseed stores in your part of Texas to find out what native species will draw hummingbirds to your backyard.
  7. Use red surveyor’s tape to attract hummingbirds. Hummingbird feeders have a distinctive shape to feed the fast-moving sprites. But Bird Watcher’s Digest offers an innovative suggestion: tying bright red or orange surveyor’s tape around a tree to attract passing birds. If they pause to investigate and you offer hummingbird feeders and native plants they like, they just may stay for a while.
  8. Make your own birdseed. HomemadeBirdFood.com provides two easy recipes using seeds, cracked corn, nuts, and such. The premium version adds nourishing, live mealworms to the mix, available for purchase at pet shops or online.
  9. Educate yourself. It doesn’t cost anything to learn more about birds that may come to your backyard, and you’ll start seeing more variety once you know what you’re looking for. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) has a great guide online to help you learn the most common backyard birds in the state.
  10. Keep backyard birds healthy. If you provide food for the birds beyond what’s naturally occurring in your backyard, the TPWD recommends good maintenance of the feeders and proper cleaning to avoid transference of illness among bird populations.

Share your love for birds with the next generation: Give a pair of binoculars and a book about birds to the children in your life. Point out species on walks at the park. Direct them to the American Birding Association’s Young Birders site. One day, they may teach their own children about that time-honored pinecone bird feeder, too.

Don’t stop there! Adding a butterfly garden to your outdoor haven is as easy as picking native plants, selecting good placement, and maintenance. Read more in our guide — Butterfly Beauties.