How to Attract Insect-eating Birds, Part 2
Birds are capable of eating pounds of mosquitoes and other insects. If you want less insects and mosquitoes in your backyard, attracting some of the best insect-eating birds is a good start. Here are some basic guidelines for attracting them.
There are three species of chickadees common to the United States: black-capped, Carolina, and mountain.
These birds do not migrate, and they eat both insects and seeds. Some of their favorite insects are aphids, caterpillars, beetles, Colorado potato-beetles, weevils, flea beetles, flies, leafhoppers, treehoppers, leaf miners, moths, plant lice, scale insects, wasps, and true bugs.
These birds will only get about 1/4 of their food from a well-stocked bird feeder. They like to eat both striped and black-oil sunflower seeds, peanut kernels, nutmeats, peanut butter, and suet.
Chickadees will use a birdhouse, and attracting one to use it is easy. The opening should be about 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and it should not have a perch near it; this protects them from sparrows. Mount the house on a post or tree in a sunny area about 7-10 feet off the ground. It is also a good idea to provide them with a winter roost. These are larger than birdhouses, with the hole located at the bottom and several internal perches.
There are 35 types of sparrow species in the U.S., but it is only common to find 15 of them. A few of these include the American tree sparrow, chipping sparrow, clay-colored sparrow, fox sparrow, Nelson’s sparrow, and more.
As a group, sparrows eat mostly seeds in the winter. During this time, it is especially important to provide them with water, as they need this to help digest their food. In the summer, however, they are known for going after ants, cabbage loopers, cucumber beetles, cutworms, leafhoppers, spruce budworms, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, leafhoppers, true bugs, wasps, spiders, and crickets.
To attract sparrows to your birdfeeder, fill it with millet, thistle seed, canary seeds, safflower seed, millet, nutmeats, peanut kernels, and hulled-oil sunflower seed. They will nest in almost any type of birdhouse.
There are a few species of titmice, including the tufted titmouse, juniper titmouse, oak titmouse, and Mexican titmouse.
Titmice enjoy a variety of insects including ants, Japanese beetles, wasps, asparagus beetles, Mexican bean-beetles, moth eggs, spiders, caterpillars, scale insects, Colorado potato-beetles, cucumber beetles, and more.
At the feeder, they enjoy peanut kernels, sunflower hearts, sunflower seeds, nutmeats, safflower seed, and thistle seed. They also like suet, suet cake, and peanut-butter mixes. They need a reliable source of water year round.
Titmice prefer houses that are about 4-inches square at the base and about 8-10 inches high. The entrance hole should be no larger than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and should have no perch. Mount the house at least 6-feet off the ground but no more than 15-feet high. Titmice do not migrate, so providing them with a winter roost is also a good idea.
There are nine species of wrens that live in the U.S., but only two of them will use feeders: the Carolina wrens and the house wrens.
All wrens are relentless insect-eaters. Some of their favorites are ants, beetles, bees, crane flies, millipedes, cutworms, sow bugs, crickets, spiders, boll weevil, flies, stinkbugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, wasps, chinch bugs, and leafhoppers.
These birds will be attracted by sunflower, peanut hearts, fruitcake, cornbread, cottage cheese, and suet.
Wrens can be attracted by birdhouses, provided that the houses are about 4 inches square at the base and about 8 inches high. The entrance should be about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, about 6 inches above the floor. Wrens will reuse their old nests, so do not clean out these houses at the end of the season. It is also a good idea to provide them with a winter roost.
Finches occupy almost every square inch of North America in one variety or another. The purple finch and the house finch can be found in the United States, but the Cassin’s finch can only be found in Canada and Mexico.
They are particularly good insect catchers in the spring. Since young finches are not able to digest seeds at first, their diets are composed entirely of insects. Finches are known to eat aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, leaf miners, spruce budworms, asparagus beetles, Colorado potato-beetles, cucumber beetles, Mexican bean-beetles, Japanese beetles, flea beetles, and many other types of beetles.
To attract finches to your feeders, stock it full of sunflower seeds, thistle seed, safflower seeds, peanut hearts, nutmeats, millet, and canary seed. They also like peanut butter, vegetables, suet, and sugar-water solutions. Most species of finches will not typically use birdhouses.
Mockingbirds get their name from their ability to mimic the songs of other birds. Although they were originally native to the forests of the West and Southeast, they have slowly moved northward. While there are many species of mockingbird, the Bahama and the northern mockingbird are the only species normally found in the U.S.
Mockingbirds do not migrate and can survive on birdfeeders during the winter. During the other seasons, they are known for eating a wide variety of insects. While they prefer ants, they will also eat all kinds of beetles and grasshoppers.
Mockingbirds do not like seeds; they prefer suet, peanut kernels, and peanut butter. They also love all kinds of fruits and berries. They will not use birdhouses or nesting platforms.
There are four species of nuthatches living in the United States, with the white-breasted and red-breasted being the most common.
Nuthatches are known for their ability to walk downward on tree trunks as they search for pests and insect eggs that live on or in the bark.
During the summer, their diet is primarily insects. However, nuthatches will use feeders during the other seasons. They like suspended feeders filled with striped or black-oil sunflower seeds, peanut kernels, melon seeds, and nutmeats. They also enjoy suet mixtures, peanut butter, and stale baked goods. They do not migrate, so any heated birdbath will likely attract this bird in the winter. They can be provided with a winter roost.
Two cardinals are common in the U.S. — the desert cardinal and the northern cardinal.
Cardinals are excellent insect-eaters because they typically need the insects to feed their young, and cardinals typically raise two broods in a single season. They are known to feed on asparagus beetles, Mexican bean-beetles, Colorado potato-beetles, sow bugs, cucumber beetles, tent caterpillars, grasshoppers, tomato hornworms, and Japanese beetles.
Cardinals are attracted to feeders that contain sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, millet, oats, and nutmeats. They will not use birdhouses. Cardinals do not migrate, so any winter water sources are also likely to attract them.
Barn swallows are one of the most widespread types of swallows and can be found in Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Europe.
A barn-swallow’s diet consists of only insects, with large flies making up 70 percent of their diet.
Attracting Barn Swallows
Although barn swallows tend to be a nuisance for building nests over doorways, you can try to attract them elsewhere with specially designed, artificial barn-swallow nest cups. You can also provide them with nesting shelves and a mud tray near the nesting site. All you need to do is keep the mud wet while they are building their nests. Swallows reuse nests from year to year, so do not knock down the nests after they have been established.
This bird is the largest of the North American swallow species and are known for diving at great speeds.
Purple Martin’s diets consists solely of insects, however they do not eat many mosquitos. While they catch most of their prey in the area, sometimes they come to the ground to eat insects like fire ants.
Attracting Purple Martins
Purple martins are social birds and will only live in apartment-style birdhouses that contain at least four rooms. These houses should be mounted on poles at least 15 feet high with about 40 feet of flying space around it. Make sure the house has plenty of ventilation and drainage. Also, the houses will need to be cleaned out each fall after the martins have left.
There are 250 species of owls in the world, with only 20 breeding in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the most common owls in the United States include the eastern screech-owls, great-horned owls, and barred owls.
Not only do owls eat insects, but also they eat mice, field voles, and shrews. Owls are also a predator of crows, so having an owl around will keep crows away too.
A few species of owls can be attracted by specially designed owl houses. These houses are usually larger and filled with about 2 inches of wood shavings. If they are placed right, an owl house could attract screech owls, barn owls, barred owls, or saw-whet owls.
Our expert gardening advisor, Kathy Bosin, adds, "Don't forget to add a bird bath to your garden. It can be as simple as a small, shallow container placed in the landscape. Change the water often, several times each week, and birds will flock to your yard."
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