I live in a high-rise apartment in the city. How can I attract birds?

April 1, 2009
You never know what might turn up on an apartment balcony. Here, a Summer Tanager pays a visit to a balcony in Maryland. Photo by Andrew You never know what might turn up on an apartment balcony. Here, a Summer Tanager pays a visit to a balcony in Maryland. Photo by Andrew's Wildlife via Birdshare.
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Your first step will be to set up feeders. To begin with, use small feeders so your seed doesn’t spoil before you get any “takers.” Try one hanging feeder for nyjer seed and one for sunflower seeds. We recommend suction cup feeders that can be set right on the glass—you dramatically reduce the likelihood of local birds colliding with glass when the feeders are on the glass or set up within just 3 feet of the window.

Once the feeders are in place, try playing recordings of cardinal and House Finch calls and songs (at a normal volume, so that nearby birds may think there’s a well-fed bird up there and go join it). You may keep playing recordings through spring and summer, until birds figure out that your terrace is a good place to feed.

In May, you can try hummingbird feeders—the color red may draw some birds in to your feeders. Again, use fairly small feeders at first, and change sugar water at least every couple of days in hot weather or if feeders are in direct sunlight, and every 2-4 days when it’s cooler and feeders are shaded.

Depending on what the habitat below you is like, it may take some time for birds to discover your balcony. Bird feeders in high-rises along lakes and rivers are fairly likely to be discovered during migration. Feeders in any neighborhood are more likely to attract birds if there are trees and other vegetation at ground level, and the more plants on your balcony, the more likely curious birds will check it out. Providing food and nectar-producing plants may lure birds in, and will make your balcony more pleasant for you whether or not they ever arrive. Putting up a hanging plant or two will improve your chances of a pair of House Finches nesting. Make sure baskets are set close to the window rather than on the outer edge to reduce the chances that a nestling’s first venture out of the nest won’t be its last.

Explore more of our tips about attracting birds to your yard, what to feed them when they get there, and check out our Celebrate Urban Birds project for information on attracting birds to city yards and urban balconies.

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