(The following was written for the community where I live in central Texas, but it is broadly applicable)
If you desire to attract birds to your yard, please consider a few things. First and foremost, natural foods, i.e., fruits and nectar from native plants and wildflowers, as well as the insects attracted to these native plants, are the best ways to bring in birds and support our native wildlife. A fresh water source, especially if it involves moving water, will attract birds even if you are not feeding them. If you plan to provide supplemental food, some options are better than others at attracting desirable species while not attracting undesired ones. Secondly, you have to make the decision; Are you doing this in the birds’ best interest first and foremost? Feeders should be less than 4 feet or more than 15 feet from windows, and you should purchase decorative window stickers, keep your blinds closed when not viewing the birds, or use other methods of preventing window collisions. Foods should be chosen according to which species you wish to attract, and you should never use products like corn and milo (sorghum) or other cheap fillers in a seed mix. Using such products attracts other (some would say nuisance) species like deer, squirrels, and raccoons, for example, that will at the very least eat up your birdseed, if not make a mess or even worse, destroy your feeders. White-winged Doves can hog the food and discourage the smaller, colorful songbirds. Weight sensitive feeders are the best bet at discouraging unwanted species. Suet is especially attractive to birds in winter months, and will attract species that other foods won’t. The best foods include black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer (for goldfinches and siskins), safflower, and millet (if you live near grassy areas and wish to attract Painted Buntings). Birdseed and suet that contain hot pepper will discourage squirrels and other mammals. To attract hummingbirds, flowers like flame acanthus, crossvine, coral honeysuckle, turks cap, Salvias, and many others, are better than sugar water, but if you do have hummer feeders, keep them SCRUPULOUSLY clean, change the fluid regularly, and only use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water (no dyes, etc.) Most people take down their feeders in colder months, when only a few hardy Rufous Hummingbirds stick around. We are lucky to have an excellent source of bird food, feeders, bird houses, books, and accessories near me in Georgetown and there is probably a “bird store" near you, or at least one that is accessible online. The folks at WildBirds Unlimited in Wolf Ranch (and other franchises throughout the country) can provide anything you need and plenty of advice. If you have any further questions about birds, feel free to contact me (Martin Byhower) at firstname.lastname@example.org.