The Best Foods in Your Kitchen to Attract Backyard Birds
More colorful birds will flock to your feeders when you serve up the delicious food you already have in your kitchen.
Fresh fruit, including apples, will attract many birds to your backyard. Just cut apples into slices and remove the seeds. You can also slice each apple in half after removing the core, scoop out part of the fruit and fill the cavity with sugar water for hummingbirds. Or skewer one on a feeder to attract birds, like this northern mockingbird.
The birds won’t care if you serve Red Delicious or Gala, but here’s a handy guide to help you pick your favorite apple.
Birds that love apples: Eastern bluebird, pine grosbeak, gray catbird, Northern cardinal, Northern flicker, American robin, scarlet tanager, cedar waxwing, red-bellied woodpecker
Birds go bananas for bananas! First, remove the peel and cut each banana in half lengthwise. Then, you can set the fruit on a tree stump or skewer it on a hook. Another idea is to put a few chunks in a mesh bag and watch hummingbirds dart around to eat the fruit flies that gather. Tanagers are keen on fruit feeding stations, and some folks who live farther north have been fortunate enough to lure the brilliantly colored western, summer and scarlet tanagers to their backyards. Check out the best ways to cook with ripe bananas, too.
Birds that love bananas: Northern cardinal, gray catbird, gray jay, scarlet tanager
Cooked pasta and rice
Boil the pasta and rice until soft, and serve both plain—no sauce or cheese, please. Chop up bigger pieces of pasta into little bits to make them easier for the birds to eat.
Birds that love pasta: Blue jay, brown thrasher, tufted titmouse, red-bellied woodpecker
After you make an omelet, bake clean, empty eggshells at 250° for 15 minutes. (You wouldn’t want to give your feathered guests food poisoning.) After you bake the shells, crush them and add to your birdseed, or just sprinkle on the ground. You can also offer them in a platform feeder. Eggshells are a fine source of calcium for egg-laying female birds. Find more reasons why you shouldn’t throw out your eggshells.
Birds that love eggshells: Any bird eating your seed, as well as purple martins and barn and tree swallows
If you bought too much cheese for your last wine tasting party, serve the leftovers to your feathered friends. Dice hard cheese (avoid serving soft cheeses) into small chunks and make sure there’s no mold, which could be harmful for birds. This is the best way to store cheese to keep it fresh.
Birds that love hard cheese: Gray catbird, brown thrasher, Carolina wren
Pumpkin and squash seeds
After you carve a pumpkin or squash this fall, save the seeds. Roast them in the oven before giving them to the birds. Keep the seeds plain, without seasoning. (But make an extra batch for yourself!) Northern cardinals, sparrows and other seed specialists will especially enjoy the variety.
Birds that love pumpkin seeds: Northern cardinal, evening grosbeak, red-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse
Rather than buying suet cakes, make your own with peanut butter as the base. If you’re already feeding peanuts, either in or out of the shell, try offering peanut butter instead. Drop a dollop of peanut butter in a dried-out orange half left over from oriole season, or spread some over a pinecone or tree bark. Here’s a recipe to make your own natural peanut butter.
Birds that love peanut butter: Too many to name, including black-capped chickadee, brown creeper, white-breasted nuthatch, wood thrush, wrens and woodpeckers
What goes better with peanut butter than jelly? Grape jelly is a go-to offering for orioles, because they can’t resist the sweet, fruity stuff. You can buy a special jelly feeder, but any shallow container will also do the trick. Do you know the difference between jam and jelly?
Birds that love jelly: Orioles, gray catbird, red-bellied woodpeckers
Try putting out berries or raisins, and you just might attract mockingbirds or robins. Always serve plain raisins to the birds, not ones coated in yogurt or chocolate. Soak raisins in warm water first so they’re soft and easier for birds to bite. Psst—soaking raisins is also a secret tip to boost your baking.
Birds that love raisins: Eastern bluebird, Northern cardinal, gray catbird, Northern mockingbird, orioles, American robin, scarlet tanager, brown thrasher, wood thrush, cedar waxwing, red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers