Food is the major attractor of birds, and if you provide the right kind of food, there's a very good chance that you can attract many beautiful birds to your backyard. The trick is knowing what it is that you need to put out to attract the kinds of birds that you want, and in some cases, knowing what not to put out.
For instance, if you'd like to discourage Rock Doves (the domestic pigeon), European Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles, all of which can be nuisance birds, from becoming frequent visitors to your backyard, avoid setting out commonly sold bird food mixes. Seed mixes such as these have a lot of millet and sometimes corn, which all of the aforementioned birds will flock to, crowding out the more desireable birds.
For a better variety of birds in your backyard, opt for black oil sunflower seed. It's a good all-purpose seed that most birds love, aside from the Rock Doves, European Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Common Grackles, who do not seem to flock to it as they do millet-based seeds.
Suet is also good for attracting beautiful birds, and is a favorite of locals such as the Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatch, and the occasional Blue Jay. Suet comes in many different forms, but probably the most common form is a square block that can be placed inside of a special suet-feeder that can be hung from a tree, hook, or other apparatus.
If you would like to attract hummingbirds to your backyard, you should invest in a hummingbird feeder. The HummZinger hummingbird feeder works wonderfully, and it is very easy to clean.
However, do not feed your hummingbirds artificially colored red nectars. Red food coloring is not good for hummingbirds, and the red color of the feeder itself should be enough to lure hummingbirds to your yard. Studies have even shown that hummingbirds are actually more attracted to clear nectars, which you can easily make yourself. The mixture that most closely simulates natural nectar is a four-to-one ratio of water and plain granulated sugar, which are the only things you'll need to make this recipe for hummingbird nectar:
Natural Hummingbird Nectar
2 cups water
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
Boil one cup of water and add the sugar to it, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Next, add 1 cup of cold water, or a cup of ice cubes to quickly cool the nectar. Stir and refrigerate. The nectar should keep for approximately a week to ten days. Be sure to change the food in your feeder a few times a week, as hummingbirds are particular about their food and will not be as attracted to the nectar if it is cloudy, which it tends to become as it ages. Being exposed to summer heat and direct sunlight also hastens this process.
Peanuts, whole or shelled, are also wonderful attractors of birds. Many birds, such as the Northern Cardinal (who enjoys shelled peanuts) and the Blue Jay (who enjoys them whole), can be trained to wait for (and expect!) their peanuts to be thrown to them and will eagerly swoop down to collect them afterwards. Whole and shelled peanuts can be easily found in St. Charles County. You can check out some Local Resources to find out more about some of the stores in the area that carry both whole and shelled peanuts, as well as the bird seeds and other bird supplies that have been mentioned.
To attract beautiful American Goldfinches, you will need either a large crop of naturally growing thistle, or you can buy a thistle feeder and some Nyjer thistle seed. House Finches will also be attracted by this, which shouldn't be a problem. Although they are fairly common birds, they are neither destructive nor invasive, and they have a pretty mating call in the spring.