by Bill Thompson, III
Filling your tube feeder with mixed seed.
If you do this, all the
seed will run out onto the ground, making the sparrows, pigeons, and
blackbirds very happy. Solution: Use sunflower seed
Ground feeding in the same place all winter.
If you scatter seed on the
ground all winter in one place, you will create a stinky, messy,
unhealthy zone that will be hard to clean up in the spring.
Solution: Change feeding spots several times, especially during wet
Ignoring feeder hygiene.
Yes, it's cold outside, but
dirty feeders can still make birds sick. Solution: Wash your feeders
at least monthly in a light (9:1) bleach-water solution. Rinse
thoroughly and allow to air dry.
Buying your seed at the grocery store.
OK, some stores do sell
good seed mixes, but most just sell cheap mixes. And there's a
reason this seed is so cheap. Solution: Read the label. The
ingredients should be sunflower, millet, and cracked corn. If wheat,
milo, barley, and other seeds are listed as main ingredients, get
your seed elsewhere.
Feeding last year's leftover seed.
Seed, like any other food,
ages. Moths and weevils eat the seed. If your old seed is full of
cobwebs, it's been invaded by flour moths and is no good. Solution:
Throw it out and get new seed.
Ground feeding is fine, but
many birds prefer to use hanging or raised feeders. If you're
feeding on the ground and are wondering where the chickadees,
nuthatches, and woodpeckers are, try this: Solution: Use hanging
feeders (hopper style, or tube or satellite feeders) and limit the
ground feeding; you'll soon get some other, smaller songbirds to
visit your feeders.
Believing that no thistle seed means no
This is not true. Sure,
goldfinches, siskins, and other finches love thistle (or niger)
seed. But it's an expensive seed to offer exclusively. Solution: All
these species will come readily to feeders that stock only black-oil
sunflower seed. Augment this with thistle if you wish.
Feeding birds lots of stale bread.
The birds may seem to love
your stale bread, but bread to a hungry bird is like popcorn is to a
Lots of filler, but no real
nutritional value. Bread also attracts mostly starlings and house
Solution: Offer apples,
oranges, meat scraps, rendered suet, mealworms, or other nutritional
Trying to baffle squirrels.
Losing the squirrel wars?
Solution: Offer dried corn, either cracked or still on the ear,
elsewhere in your yard, away from your bird feeders. You might
distract the squirrels for an entire day. And you might learn to
Taking down your feeder so the birds will migrate.
It is simply not true that
your feeders keep birds from migrating. (By the way, hummingbirds
don't migrate on the backs of geese, either.) Birds that migrate
know when to leave. Your feeders, no matter how nice and
well-stocked they are, will not delay a migrant sparrow, finch, or
grosbeak for even one second.
Solution: Feed birds all
year long if you like doing so. And don't worry, be