Feeding Wild Birds
birds can bevery enjoyable and lots of fun.
There are many types of feeders and each will attract
different birds. You need to find out what types of
birds are native to your location and purchase feeders
to attract them. The bird seeds and food you put out can
also be specific to certain birds and
will determine which birds (and animals) will come
to your feeders.
Some birds want to eat on
the ground such as Doves and Juncos, while others prefer
eating while hanging upside down, like
Woodpeckers! The size of the holes in a feeder and
the length of the perches can keep away birds like
Starlings while attracting smaller birds.
the summer, fruit is a favorite food. Oranges or
apple halves for thrashers, orioles and robins. Add a
plastic cup for grape jelly as a treat for catbirds.
Many birds go nuts
for peanuts, pecans and walnuts. There are feeders
designed to dispense those treats while keeping other
critters at bay. Seed snacks combine nuts and suet
dough, molded into blocks or encased in ready-to-hang
feeders. There are bulk seed blocks, available in small
sizes to fit into a plastic-coated wire basket or large
enough to set out on the ground.
This is the active
season as baby birds are everywhere. You need to
attend feeders more often. Check Hummingbird
feeders daily and clean often. Put out fruit for
Mockingbirds, Orioles, Catbird and Tanagers.
Remember that the Cat is the birds worst enemy.
Keep them inside, especially during the summer, as baby
birds are virtually defenseless against them.
Fall is an important
time for migratory birds. You may see birds
visiting your yard that you have not seen all
year. They need to build up energy for the long
migratory trip they are on. Some birds fly all the
way to South America! Keep those feeders out and
full of food.
Birds have survived way
before humans starting feeding them. But the
presence of feeders with fresh food definitely is a
benefit and will help them through the long hard
winter. A heated bird bath is also a welcomed site
to the birds. They will bath year round, even in
Shake out feeders
before re-filling and remove any old, wet and/or moldy
Keep seed hulls cleaned up and remove
hulls from feeders.
Disinfect feeders a few times a year
with 1/4 cup bleach and 2 gallons of water. Let
dry before re-filling with seed.
Always keep seed in a cool dry
Hulled sunflower seeds are best used
in tube and hopper feeders.
If Racoons, Opossums, Deer and othe
critters are a problem, take down feeders at night or
put only enough feed in the feeders that the birds
finish it by nightfall.
Suet is a high energy food that can be
used year round. One note of caution. Use
only rendered suet in warm temperatures otherwise it
will become rancid.
Feed year round to attract more
species of birds.
Use different feeders and different
Change bath water daily to prevent
algea growth. Add a mister to the bath.
eat more than bird seed! A LOT more!
Most birds do not eat
seeds. The reason these birds will not come to your
feeder is that they prefer eating live insects or fish
or something else. Birds that eat seeds tend to have
heavy, thick bills for cracking seed kernels. Cardinals
and Finches are good examples of seed-eating
To attract the other
birds, try hanging a suet cake by your bedroom window
for the woodpeckers and nuthatches. Put out orange
halves for the Orioles. Spread peanut butter on a pine
cone and hang it outside your school window. Plant a
cherry tree in your side yard. Build a pond and stock it
Be creative and see what you can attract. Try
popped popcorn, peanut hearts, soaked raisins, pieces of
fruit like grapes or oranges or apples, fruit seeds, grape jelly (another oriole favorite),
cooked potatoes, leftover oatmeal or ready-to-eat
cereal. Some birder
watchers even go so far as to put out a tray of live
mealworms for the Bluebirds!
Accipiters like Cooper's
Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks eat other birds. If one
swoops down on your bird feeder and carries off someone
for lunch, don't worry about it. That is the way Mother
Nature works. The fittest birds will usually survive. If
this bothers you, take down your feeders for a few days.
The Hawk will move to another
fascinating to watch as they dart around the feeders.
Males become very aggressive and try to drive away other
You might want to
consider having more than one feeder in your yard to
provide food for many "hummers" at the same
Feed hummingbirds a
mixture of 1 part sugar and 4 parts water. Boil the
water and then mix in the sugar. Let cool. You can store
this mixture up to two weeks in your refrigerator.
Change the liquid in your feeders every three days. Keep
the feeders and tubes clean. Do not add red coloring to
attracted to red, so tie a red ribbon on the feeder or
buy a feeder that is red. Bees are attracted to yellow,
so do not buy a feeder with yellow plastic on it.
Feeders that are flat,
enclosed saucers (birds sit on the perches) seem to be
easier to keep clean than feeders with tubes (bird
hovers while feeding).
You can plant flowers in
your yard that attract hummingbirds. Red, tube shaped
flowers are best. Try Trumpet Vine (Campsis),
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia) or Honeysuckle
(Loniceria). Check some of the web sites listed
at the left side of this page for more ideas.
You would not believe how
many books there are about planting gardens to attract
hummingbirds and butterflies.Visit the Attracting Birds Aisle to see
what we mean!
Commercial bird seed comes in a
variety of mixtures. Cheaper mixtures will contain
large amounts of buckwheat, rice, oats, milo, flax, rape
seed, cracked corn and canary seed.
What the birds really
want to eat is black oil sunflower seeds. To avoid the
mess of sunflower hulls, may people decide to spend a
bit more and buy the hulled sunflower seeds containing
only the "hearts" or "chips" of the
If you buy a mixture of
seeds, you may find that birds scatter most of the seeds
on the ground, trying to get at the sunflower seeds. It
is better to place these mixtures on a flat platform
feeder, rather than in a hopper type feeder. There will
be less waste and fewer seeds will wind up on the
ground. Seeds on the ground will attract doves and some
birds, but they will also attract mice, raccoons and
other critters you may not want at your feeder.
Niger seed is a
favorite food of Goldfinches. It resembles small grains
of wild rice and has a high fat and protein content.
Niger is also known as thistle. Many people think they
will be growing thistle weeds in their yard if they
offer this seed. In fact, niger is not a thistle at all.
It's the seed of the niger plant native to Ethiopia.
Niger seed sold as birdseed is heated to prevent it from
germinating. Tube type feeders with small openings are
used as Niger or "Thistle" feeders.
The type of bird feeder you use will
determine which birds come to your yard to eat. Do you
want hummingbirds, woodpeckers, orioles, chickadees,
cardinals, goldfinches or doves?
Maybe your answer is "All
of the above". In this case you will need a number of
different feeder types!
feeders hold liquid and have very narrow
feeders are simply flat tables raised off the
ground. Cardinals like these. Doves will eat from them
too if they are not very far off the ground.
feeders are cylindrical tubes with openings up
and down the tube -- perfect for Chickadees and
Goldfinches. Shorten the perches to keep larger birds
feeders are bins that hold seeds that spill out
of the bottom as the birds eat. Many birds will come to
these -- including larger birds like Blue Jays, Grackles
feeders are wire or mesh baskets that hold suet
or pre-packaged suet cakes. Woodpeckers love
feeders are hanging bowls that typically are
covered by a large plastic dome to keep out the rain and
feeders include pine cones (great for lathering
with peanut butter), and sharpened sticks to hold
orange halves for Orioles. You can also sprinkle seeds
directly on the ground -- but this attracts other
critters as well.
Keep your feeders
It is extremely important that you
clean your feeders at least once every two weeks. Use a
mixture of 2 gallons of water and 1/4 cup of bleach. Let
the feeders air-dry before rehanging them. When you
refill feeders, shake out damp seeds that may become
moldy. Remove hulls from the