An Evening Grosbeak takes a drink, Forest Grove, Oregon, 15 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.
As do all living things, birds need food, water, protective shelter, and breeding habitat.
To attract birds to your backyard you must provide life's essentials. The more variety of these things you provide, the more attractive you make your yard.
Of course, you can stick a bird feeder out in your lawn and hope for the best. You certainly may get some birds. However, with a bit of planning, you can get more birds and really enjoy attracting them.
As the Evening Grosbeak in the above photo shows, birds need water. A simple dish on the ground works. This provides water for drinking. But that's not all. Water is also for bathing.
You can get as elaborate as you want, but the birds don't really care, as shown by the Golden-crowned Sparrow in the mud puddle below.
A Golden-crowned Sparrow takes a bath, Hillsboro, Oregon, 29 April 2010 by Greg Gillson.
You may purchase a bird bath or make your own. Plastic bird baths are inexpensive--but slippery. You might add rocks for the birds to stand on, if the bottom is too slippery for them. A concrete bird bath provides rough texture so the birds don't slip. Whatever kind you decide upon, keep the water clean.
Remember, during extended freezing weather birds need fresh drinking water more than they need food. Some bird baths have heaters to keep them from freezing in the winter.
Dripping or flowing water is especially attractive for birds. Again, it doesn't have to be a complex fountain and recirculating pool. A 5-gallon bucket with a small hole in the bottom may drip into a shallow pie-tin for several hours. Use your imagination and artistic flair to design something esthetically pleasing.
Even in lawn, birds can find some food...
An American Robin finds a worm, Hillsboro, Oregon, 11 May 2008 by Greg Gillson.
The more varied the plants in your yard, the more types of birds and the higher numbers of each your yard will support.
Trees and shrubs can provide food in the form of seeds, flowers, and berries. Such plants also attract insects, caterpillars, and other small animals the birds may eat.
A Cedar Waxwing eats hawthorn berries, Forest Grove, Oregon, 21 October 2010 by Greg Gillson.
In a future post, we'll discuss specific different kinds of food you can feed to birds, and different feeder styles. But next, we'll discuss how your yard can provide two other essential needs of birds: shelter and breeding habitat.