Tag Archives: birds

5 Birds Native to the Eastern U.S. To Attract to Your Garden

It’s hard not to love the birds that visit our yards and gardens. We love them for their beauty, their cheerful melodies, and because they’re a joy to watch. Many birds can also help you have a more productive garden. These are five of the many species native to the eastern U.S. that play important ecological roles in the garden.

Eastern Bluebirds

These stunning little beauties (seen above) are workhorses in the garden! They are heavy feeders, especially during the nesting season. Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) eat a variety of insects that would otherwise be feeding on your plants. They can be found throughout much of the Eastern U.S. year-round in woodlands, farmlands, and orchards.

Populations of Eastern Bluebirds have seen severe declines primarily due to competition with House Sparrows and Starlings for nesting sites. To attract them to your garden and give them a helping hand, you can create or purchase Blue-bird specific nest boxes. These nest boxes should have an entrance hole 1.5 inches in diameter. This size is large enough for the Eastern Bluebird but too small for many other species. 

You can also make your garden more attractive to them by adding a birdbath or other clean water source. Additionally, you can stock feeders with mealworms and plant sumac or elderberry, providing some of their favorite meals. 

Hear the Eastern Bluebird here.

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)

House Wrens

Odds are you’ve seen a House Wren. They earned their name from their tendency to nest around human homes or in backyard birdhouses. While they lack the Bluebird’s vibrant colors, their cheerful personality and beautiful, bubbling song makes them just as fun to have around. 

During the spring and summer, you can find House Wrens throughout most of the eastern United States. They can be found year-round in parts of South Carolina and farther south. They feed on a wide range of insects, including moths, caterpillars, beetles, flies, and other troublesome pests!

As cavity nesters, House Wrens will use a variety of human-made birdhouses. You can upcycle old watering cans or scrap wood into suitable wren houses. You can also help them feel more comfortable in your garden and yard by planting dense shrubs or leaving some thick natural areas for them to use as shelter. If you have woodlands, leaving standing dead trees also helps make more natural cavities available for them and other birds.

You can hear the House Wren here

Eastern Phobebe (Sayornis phoebe)

Eastern Phoebes

You may already be able to recognize these birds by the call they’re named for, which sounds like “fee-be.” They also have the adorable habit of bobbing their tails when perched. Like the House Wren, they spend at least the spring and summer in most of the eastern United States and may also be seen year-round in the Southeast. They are some of the earliest birds to move north each spring. They’re common in woodlands, farmlands, and suburbs and are often spotted nesting under bridges and in eaves and rafters.

Phoebes are members of the family of birds known as the “flycatchers.” They catch most of their meals out of midair, feeding on flies, wasps, beetles, and other insects. They will also hover to grab bugs off foliage or drop to the ground to quickly grab an insect.

Eastern Phoebes are in decline in much of their summer range. You can help preserve this species and invite them to your garden by building appropriate nest boxes. You can find plans here. Be sure to get boxes up early! They also eat berries, so planting a few sumacs or elderberries can help attract them.

You can hear the Eastern Phoebe here.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)


Three different species of Chickadee call the eastern United States home. The Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus) is only found in northern New England and into Canada though it has occasionally been spotted farther south. The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is found in the mountains of West Virginia and farther north, while the Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) is found in southern Pennsylvania down to the middle of Florida. 

All of these species are omnivorous and will feed on insects throughout the year. Having them around can help keep pest populations low. They’ll hunt insects in your garden during the summer and find them in bark and dead plant material in the winter.

Thankfully chickadees are easy to attract to your yard. They’ll visit clean birdbaths and other water sources. Planting berry bushes like elderberries and seed crops like sunflowers are great ways to provide food for them. They’ll also readily visit feeders and particularly enjoy sunflower seeds, suet, and peanut butter. You can also help provide chickadees with protection from wind, rain, and snow by planting evergreen shrubs and other dense plants.  

Hear the Boreal Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, or the Carolina Chickadee by clicking their name.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Of course, I couldn’t leave the Ruby-throated Hummingbird off this list. They’re stunning, will help pollinate your plants, and eat various small soft-bodied insects, including gnats, aphids, fruit flies, and tiny spiders. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be found throughout the eastern United States during the summer and year-round in parts of Florida. They’re commonly seen in gardens and woodland edges.

You can attract these hummingbirds by putting up feeders or planting tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers. If you decide to use a feeder, you should use appropriate food (no red dye!) and clean the feeder often. You can find great information about feeding hummingbirds in this Audubon Society article. Great flowers to plant for these birds include cardinal flowers, sunflowers, bee balm, echinacea (coneflower), Jewelweed, Milkweed, and Fuchsia. You can also add flowering trees such as Flowering Dogwood or Crabapples to your yard.  

You can hear the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird here.

Tips for All Birds

One of the best things you can for any bird species is to stop using pesticides in your garden. Pesticides can make birds sick when they consume insects that have come into contact with these chemicals. 

You can also leave a few wild areas. Sometimes the “untidy” areas of your yard or woodland are the best for sheltering and feeding small birds. Keep this in mind when you have the urge to clear brush, dead trees, and dead plant material.

Lastly, you should plant native species. Native flowers, trees, and other plants help provide habitat and food for a wide variety of native birds.

Planting for Hummingbirds

In the past we’ve discussed the basics of pollinator gardens, planting for Black Swallowtail Butterflies, and 5 butterflies common to the Mid-Atlantic and how to support them. We’ve also covered 10 beneficial birds and how to attract them. However, a Facebook follower recently pointed out we haven’t done a post about hummingbirds! So without further adieu, here’s what you should know about planting for hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Species

If you live in the Eastern U.S., the hummingbirds you see are likely to be Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Occasionally, Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Rufous Hummingbirds are seen during the winter, primarily in the Deep South.

A great resource for bird lovers is The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library. You can find photos, videos, and audio recordings of birds from all over.

Habitat and Diet

Hummingbirds spend a lot of their time in open woodlands but they’re easily tempted into yards and gardens with flowers and feeders. You can make your garden and yard more appealing by avoiding large, open areas. Birds prefer to have shelter in the form of clusters of trees, shrubs, or even vines on harbors. They also prefer a varied garden. Opt for plants in a variety of heights. Hummingbirds migrate to Mexico and South America each winter.

Hummingbirds are pollinators and are known for their habit of eating nectar and sap. They may also help keep pests down in your garden too. Hummingbirds are omnivores and sometimes feed on small insects and spiders. They need to eat about twice their body weight per day due to their high metabolism which helps them sustain their rapid wing beats. Check out this bird feeder that spins squirrels to avoid them from stealing their food.

Keeping your lawn and garden free of chemicals like insecticides helps keep hummingbirds and other important wildlife healthy.


Hummingbirds tend to have a preference for long, tubular flowers that hold a lot of nectar. They also rely heavily on sight to find flowers so those that are brightly colored are excellent choices. It should be noted that though they love the color red you shouldn’t buy or make red “hummingbird food.” Red dyes and food coloring are harmful to hummingbirds.

Here are a few great choices:

They’ll also visit flowering shrubs, vines, and trees like Honeysuckle, Cardinal Vine, Rhododendron, and Butterfly Bush.

Having flowers available in the fall can be especially helpful as hummingbirds prepare to migrate. They sometimes double their weight in preparation for their long flight south! Take a look at blooming times and opt for long-blooming varieties or experiment with multiple successions of annuals.

Eastern Beneficial Birds & 10 Ways to Attract Them to Your Garden

Among the gardener’s many friends are a variety of birds. Some species help pollinate crops while others wreak havoc on pest populations. Some help keep the rodent population in check while certain species eat the seeds off troublesome weeds. When planning an organic garden it’s definitely worth considering local bird species. Implementing a few simple strategies to attract them to your garden can help you naturally improve your yields.

  • Owls
    These nocturnal hunters are excellent at keeping rodents from stealing your crops. The most common eastern species that will hunt in or near your garden include Barn Owls, Eastern Screech Owls, Barred Owls, and Great Horned Owls. Barn Owls, in particular, have seen population declines and would benefit from nest boxes.
  • Hummingbirds
    Only one species of hummingbird is commonly found in the eastern United States, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They are beautiful to see in the garden and help pollinate too!
  • Goldfinches
    Often overlooked helpers in the garden are the seed-eating birds. Goldfinches are a common variety that’s easy to attract and they’ll lend you a hand by eating the seeds of many common weed species.
  • Swallows 
    While there are many species in the swallow family that eat insects Purple Martins and Barn Swallows are two species that can be commonly found frequenting backyard gardens.
  • Northern Cardinals
    In the winter time cardinals will frequently be found at seed feeders however during the summer month they’re more than happy to eat pests in your garden. They’re very common on the east coast.
  • Blue Jays
    Despite their sometimes bad reputation, Blue Jays can actually be helpful in the garden. They mostly feed on nuts and seeds but they’ll also eat caterpillars and other insects.
  • Chickadees
    Chickadees are common throughout much of the east coast and have no qualms about hanging out in your backyard. Depending on where you live you may see Boreal Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, or Carolina Chickadees with the second two being more likely to frequent populated areas. Chickadees are omnivores, making them easy to attract to your garden during the winter so they’ll munch on insects during the summer.
  • Eastern Bluebirds
    These birds love to eat insects and could use some serious help. Eastern Bluebirds populations have declined due to competition with House Sparrows for nesting sites. If you’d like to attract them to your garden they’re happy to use nest boxes.
  • Hawks
    There are several species of hawks that can be found in the eastern United States but you’ll most likely to see Cooper’s Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks,  Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Red-tailed Hawks near your garden and they can help keep rodents and other small mammals from overtaking your garden.
  • American Kestrel
    The American Kestrel shares may of the same features of hawks but they are actually part of the falcon family.

How to Attract Them & Keep Them Visiting Your Garden

  1. Research and put up species appropriate houses. Obviously, you’ll need a different sort of house for a chickadee than a barn owl but there’s more to it than that. Some birds also have distinct territories and won’t nest in boxes too close to their neighbors. Research your favorite birds’ requirements and make houses to suit their needs.
  2. Feeders are an easy way to get birds to visit your garden. Many birds like chickadees will really benefit from seed feeders out during the winter but will lend you a hand with insects during the summer months as well. If you have bears in your area you may need to take feeders down during the summer months.
  3. Provide multi-level gardens. Birds like natural areas. Perfectly trimmed lawns and just low growing plants won’t cut it. Birds prefer places to land and hide. Adding a blend of taller and shorter plants, planting some things in dense groups, and adding perennial plants, shrubs, and trees will make birds feel more comfortable visiting your garden.
  4. In the same sense, keep nearby wooded areas natural. Leave standing dead wood for birds to nest in and feed on. Avoid heavy pruning and creating manicured looking woodlands.
  5. Leave standing dead material like corn or sunflower stalks during the winter. Birds that overwinter in your area will often find insects in them to feed on.
  6. Add a birdbath to your yard especially if you live in a dry area. While some birds will actually use it to bath many will use it to get a drink while they’re visiting your garden.
  7. Spay/neuter your cat. As lovable as cats are they can devastate a local songbird population. Having a pet is a wonderful thing but contributing to stray cats is horrible for wildlife.
  8. Avoid using rodenticides and insecticides as these will travel up the food change and harm or even kill birds.
  9. If you can leave a few sturdy, mature trees around. These are preferable perches for larger birds like hawks and owls.
  10. Make your windows visible. Hanging things in your windows or adding decals to them can save birds from unnecessary collisions.

Of course, these are not the only birds that are helpful, there are tons of species! This list is just a few of the species common to the eastern United States that can be beneficial around gardens. Using these 10 tips can help you have a better garden while helping local wildlife. What do you do to attract birds? Did we miss anything?

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