How to Attract Birds, Not Late Night Partiers

Mary Beth: Raccoons have been visiting us since we got back and they have been downright rude! I’m pretty sure they were setting up house on our deck while we were living on Block Island — droppings and the shredded cat bed were my first clue that we might not be alone.

They come late night, hissing and growling at each other while they crash into things and dig around in my potted plants. They’ve even dug up the dahlia tubers I just planted in the garden which really tested my patience.

The other night I was so fed up with their antics that I decided to chase them away. I knocked on the window to scare them. They turned to look at me, their expressions clearly indicating a ‘Who the hell are you?!’ attitude and then they continued their late night porch party. You might be envisioning cute, cuddly Disney-style raccoons, but in this part of the woods these are BIG suckers. So when I opened the door a crack to see if I could scare them off, that look made me close the door, turn off the lights and retreat back into my bed!

My take away from all of this was that if I would be getting any sleep, I would have to remove everything in the yard that might be attracting them. That meant that I had to stop using the hummingbird feeder and bird feeders. And yes, I should know better, feeders attract bears as well and those are considerably larger and more fierce than the raccoons. So considering myself forewarned, I packed up the feeders. Now I only put a handful of birdseed out in a bowl in the morning and I bring it in the house at night. I also bought some Shake Away made from Coyote urine that should discourage the raccoons — hopefully this doesn’t attract the coyotes!

Our yard is home for lots of birds and I really enjoy watching and listening to them. There are so many interesting ones here in SW Colorado that I decided I would concentrate on adding to the plants in our yard that will attract birds. Then I won’t have to resort to putting out food that ends up attracting some fuzzy-faced creatures who really are kind of cute, just not at close range.

Pine Siskin (?) in Crabapple Tree

I think this is a Pine Siskin, although it may be a finch. Anyone know for sure? (BTW — apologies for the fuzzy pics. My zoom lens has mold (!) courtesy of the constantly damp weather on Block Island.)

Another thing that attracts birds right away is the sound of moving water. I have little pond with a pump that trickles water over rocks that sounds like a stream. It draws in all sorts of bird who bathe and drink here.

Pine Siskin (?) drinking from my pond.

Many birds will help out in the garden by eating insects — Pine Siskins love aphids. You can help them by providing them shelter. You can leave a snag (a dead tree for nesting), or a brush pile somewhere out of the way along with some nesting boxes so they will want to stick around.

Ray makes fun of me because there are so many birdhouses on our property, but almost all of them are being used. My swallows, chickadees and nuthatches come back every year. Right now I’m trying to entice the bluebirds that have been drinking from my pond to take up residence in a birdhouse I made them last year. And this morning I spotted a Flycatcher making a nest under our porch near the clematis vines.

Try putting up some birdhouses and making a little pond or fountain in your garden. You’ll be delighted with all the activity it attracts.

Trees and shrubs birds like for:

Shelter and nesting:

  • Crabapples
  • Birches
  • Hawthorns
  • Maples
  • Viburnum
  • Hollies
  • Bayberry
  • Berry Thickets
  • Cottonwoods
  • Cedars
  • Dogwoods


  • Chokecherries
  • Crabapples
  • Dogwoods
  • Hawthorns
  • Ash trees
  • Roses

Nectar for the Hummingbirds:
Spring Blooming:

  • Lilac
  • Columbine
  • Apple Blossom
  • Lupine
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Iris
  • Currant

Summer Blooming:

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Bee Balm
  • Crocosmia
  • Coral Bells
  • Foxglove
  • Penstemon
  • Phlox
  • Salvia
  • Honeysuckle

Late Summer Blooming:

  • Cardinal Flower
  • Hollyhocks
  • Salvia
  • Larkspur
  • Nasturtium
  • Goldenrod

Nesting Materials for Hummingbirds:

  • Willow Leaves
  • Ferns
  • Moss

These are short lists of common plants, to find plants that will do best in your area go to Attracting Wildlife With Native Plants and follow this link to find out how to certify your garden as a wildlife habitat. Here’s a link to a page on the Gardener’s Supply site that tells how to attract bug-eating birds.

Still more links: plans for building birdhouses — here and here.

One thought on “How to Attract Birds, Not Late Night Partiers

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  1. This is a cool article about those critters in our gardens.

    I did find a bird feeder that raccoons can’t get into (and if they can’t neither can the squirrels).. which means I no longer have to take in bird seed feeders at night.

    And so far .. they haven’t tried the hummingbird feeder.

    The only feeder I now bring in every night is the suet feeder. Small price to pay for seeing the birds it draws every day.

    Thanks for all the great list of plants!

    (Oh .. and it may or may not be a pine siskin, sometimes in the spring what looks like a pine siskin turns into a goldfinch)

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