Do you want to attract warblers to your yard?
It’s easy to see why these tiny, beautiful songbirds are sought-after by backyard birders.
But, unfortunately, attracting warblers is easier said than done. The problem is warblers RARELY visit bird feeders! Since they eat insects almost exclusively, there’s no reason for them to bother with typical bird food like sunflower seeds and peanuts.
So, instead of a list of foods to offer and bird feeders to buy, we’ll look at TEN other ways to attract warblers to your yard. And make sure to read all the way to tip #9 because it’s my FAVORITE way to attract these songbirds!
Are you wondering what species of warblers live in your area? Check out this ID Guide!
#1. Choose plants that provide shelter.
Attracting warblers is difficult because they’re one of the most secretive and shy types of bird.
So to help them feel more at ease in your yard, offer plenty of spots for them to hide and feel protected.
If you have large deciduous trees with lots of branches and leaves, look for warblers high up in the foliage. You could also plant densely packed shrubs and ground cover in a garden setting.
Although perfectly manicured garden beds and lawns look nice to us, isolated plants with open space in between spell danger to warblers. Try to prune only as much as needed and choose native, leafy, full plants to attract as many warblers as possible.
#2. Plant flowers, shrubs, and trees that attract insects.
I know you may be thinking, I want to attract warblers, not bugs! But, insects are most warbler species’ main food source. So, if you have a yard with no bugs, you’ll have a very hard time getting any warblers to visit.
The easiest way to invite insects to your backyard is to use native plants in your garden. In particular, warblers enjoy eating caterpillars. So by planting native flowers and shrubs that support caterpillars, you’ll have the bonus of attracting beautiful butterflies!
Check out these guides to find plants native to your area:
#3. Don’t use pesticides or insecticides.
If you want to attract warblers, one of the WORST things you can do is have a yard filled with pesticides. These poisons kill insects without discriminating. And as we have discussed, warblers LOVE eating bugs!
Unfortunately, pesticide use is common in most neighborhoods.
And if you use pesticides, not only will you miss out on all the warblers you could be attracting, but a lot of pesticides are dangerous to humans, pets, and other wildlife!
If you MUST use pesticides, limit them to areas that birds and other wildlife don’t frequent. For example, spray your front yard and leave your backyard to grow naturally.
#4. Offer foods they (might) eat.
This tip comes with the disclaimer that you may never be able to attract any warblers with bird food.
They’re so easily startled that they’ll rarely visit a feeder with other birds, and they prefer to eat insects anyway. But, if you have a quiet space that other birds don’t visit, try placing some foods that warblers will eat there.
Some of the foods warblers will sample when insects are scarce are:
- Orange slices and grape jelly: Like orioles, warblers travel incredible distances during migration. They need a ton of energy to keep their strength up, and the sugar in oranges and jelly is perfect.
- Suet: This fatty treat has a similar nutritional composition to insects, so warblers are likely to choose it over seeds or nuts.
- Peanut butter: Like suet, the fat and protein in peanut butter is more appealing to warblers than typical birdseed.
- Mealworms: This might be the most effective way to attract warblers with food, since they are, after all, an insect. Mealworms are the larva of a beetle that’s often used to attract bluebirds.
As you can watch below, I was lucky enough to have a Hooded Warbler visit my feeding station. It was during fall migration and it sampled a few different types of seeds.
#5. Set out nesting materials.
Even if warblers don’t visit your yard for food, you may be able to attract them for nesting. Besides creating a safe and comfortable habitat, providing nesting materials is the easiest way to encourage warblers to nest in your yard.
You can attract nesting warblers with natural fibers. For example, cottonwood or cattail down, clumps of human or pet hair, string or yarn, shredded paper, and down feathers from pillows are all great nesting materials. They will use these items as insulation and bedding, which will keep baby birds warm on chilly spring nights!
However, there are a few items you SHOULDN’T include in a basket of nesting materials. Plastic, tinsel, cellophane, aluminum foil, and dryer lint can injure baby birds. Plus, because they’re made of plastic and metal, they’ll eventually end up as litter instead of biodegrading.
Here are some quick instructions on attracting nesting birds with a collection of nesting materials:
Gather your materials, making sure any dangerous or synthetic materials are left out.
Cut any string, yarn, and hair into pieces 4-8 inches (10 to 20 cm) long.
Decide how to offer your materials. One of the best ways to offer nesting material is in an unused wire suet cage. It’s easy for birds to pick out the material they want, and since they’re already made to be hung, your job is much easier too! You can also place the materials in a small basket or directly on the ground.
Place your materials in an area close to your feeder stations and birdhouses so the birds will see it, and make sure you can see it easily too. Watching birds gather the materials is incredibly fun!
You can also buy ready-made nesting materials to set out. Some of these nesting kits even come with a wicker or wire dispenser that you can hang from a tree branch. Check out some options here!
#6. Discourage predators from visiting your yard.
Nothing will undo your work to attract warblers faster than a stealthy predator taking up residence. If you have cats, it’s best to keep them indoors, especially during nesting & migration seasons. Other predators like larger birds, mammals, and reptiles can also threaten warblers and chicks.
Predators are another reason to provide lots of hiding spots in your yard. Warblers feel safer when they have plenty of protected places to perch, and it will be harder for animals to scare them away or hurt them.
#7. Create a quiet space just for warblers.
Because they’re shy and easily startled, you won’t have much luck attracting warblers to a backyard with a busy feeding station. However, if you have enough space, you can keep your feeding station and still create an oasis of calm for these little songbirds.
Choose a spot in your yard well away from your feeding station. Once you’ve picked a good location, make sure that area has plenty of trees, shrubs, or other close-growing vegetation where the warblers can hide.
Limit human and pet traffic in that area to increase your chances of attracting warblers. You want to make sure the warblers are as undisturbed as possible, and constantly invading their hiding spot will definitely disturb them!
Dedicated food near the warbler area may help as well. A small tray of mealworms or some suet or peanut butter spread on a tree are easy, quick ways to provide food.
#8. Attract chickadees to your yard.
Although it’s surprising, one way to attract warblers is to also attract chickadees!
Chickadees welcome all species of warblers into their flocks during migration. And warblers know that chickadees will lead them to food, water, and shelter, so they tend to follow them into backyards.
It’s much easier to attract chickadees with feeders since they love sunflower seeds and don’t mind crowded feeding stations. As a bonus, you’ll have cheerful chickadees calling while the warblers serenade you!
#9. Offer a MOVING source of water!
Creating a moving water source is the MOST effective way to attract warblers to your yard. The movement of the water in a birdbath helps warblers to stop and take notice for a drink or a quick cleaning.
Either choose a birdbath with a built-in fountain or add one to an existing bath. Since warblers are especially attracted to moving water, a bubbler, mister, or fountain is essential.
Here are a few options you could purchase:
A. API Water Wiggler: This device sits in your birdbath and agitates the water to create gentle rippling motions.
B. Solar Bird Bath Fountain: This solar-powered fountain will add splashing sound and movement to your birdbath.
C. Birds Choice Avian Mister: This mister is designed to look like pebbles and provide a place for birds to perch in your birdbath.
Depending on what kind of movement you want, you can purchase a water wiggler, solar fountain attachment, or mister to get the water in your birdbath moving. Whichever option you choose, moving water is the best way to attract warblers!
But, having a birdbath is only the first step. Another important thing to consider is the location of the birdbath. Make sure it’s near plenty of cover in trees or shrubs, so warblers have a safe space to inspect the birdbath.
Clean your birdbath frequently and replace the water, so it stays fresh and clear. You might recognize this birdbath from Scott’s live cam! It’s great for attracting warblers because it’s low to the ground where birds are comfortable. And it’s great for humans because it’s durable and easy to clean!
#10. Practice patience as you attract warblers.
As you might have noticed, attracting warblers to your backyard isn’t a simple task.
Lots of the tips in this article focus on creating a great habitat, which can take time to develop. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t see any warblers the first season, or even the second or third.
Remember, getting warblers to visit isn’t as easy as setting out food and waiting! But with time, patience, and a little effort, you just may be rewarded with sightings of these beautiful songbirds!
How do you attract warblers to your yard?
Let us know in the comments!