One of the most enjoyable parts of building a garden the wildlife, to me at least, is having a bird feeder or more hanging outside the window to been seen from a favorite chair inside the house. And having then scattered throughout the property so that as I walk through, the birds take flight as they hear my footsteps. My garden becomes a wildlife wonderland!
If you are new to feeding the birds, below is a quick guide to understanding the types of feeders and feed, and who they attract.
1) TRAY/PLATFORM FEEDERS
Above ground tray feeders attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds, including blackbirds, cardinals, doves, jays, juncos, and sparrows.
2) HOPPER FEEDERS
Hopper feeders are attractive to most feeder birds, including buntings, cardinals, finches, jays, cardinals, chickadees, grosbeaks, sparrows, and titmice; they’re also squirrel magnets.
3) TUBE FEEDER
Depending on the size of the perches under the feeding ports, you may attract small birds such as sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches while excluding larger species such as grackles and jays.
4) NYJER FEEDER
Nyjer (also called thistle) feeders are especially popular with American Goldfinches.
5) SUET FEEDERS
Suet feeders attract a variety of chickadees, jays, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers.
Are you baffled as to how to keep this squirrels out of your bird feeders?
Well, there are baffles that can be placed on the post below the feeder. At home, Helen Yoest ,Executive Director of Bee Better, says, I only put out seed when I’m home to enjoy the birds, usually on a Friday afternoon, lasting through Sunday evening. It takes the squirrels a couple of days to find/remember the feeders. By time the weekend is over, the squirrels are just figuring things out and return, with little to no seed left.
There are two kinds of sunflower—black oil and striped.
The black oil seeds (“oilers”) have very thin shells, easy for virtually all seed-eating birds to crack open, and the kernels within have a high fat content, extremely valuable for most winter birds. Striped sunflower seeds have a thicker shell, much harder for birds we don’t want to feed such as House Sparrows and blackbirds to crack open.
Safflower has a thick shell, hard for some birds to crack open, but is a favorite among cardinals. Grosbeaks, chickadees, doves, and native sparrows also eat it. According to some sources, and it is true in the BEE BETTER Teaching Garden, squirrels don’t eat the safflower.
Peanuts are very popular with jays, crows, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, and many other species, but are also favored by squirrels, bears, raccoons, and other animals that should not be subsidized.
NYJER NOT THISTLE
Thistle is preferred by the American goldfinches, but invasive thistle plants became a recognized problem in North American, so suppliers shifted to a daisy-like plant, known as nyjer, Guizotia abyssinica, producing a similar type of small, oily, rich seed.
WHITE PROSO MILLET
White millet is a favorite with ground-feeding birds including quails, native American sparrows, doves, towhees, juncos, and cardinals.
GOLDEN MILLET, RED MILLET, FLAX
These seeds are often used as fillers in packaged birdseed mixes, but most birds shun them. Waste seed becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus, contaminating fresh seed more quickly. Helen advises, Make sure to read the ingredients list on birdseed mixtures, avoiding those with these seeds. In particular, if a seed mix has a lot of small, red seeds, make sure they’re milo or sorghum, not red millet.
Suet is particularly attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and yes, jays and starlings. Wrens, creepers, kinglets, and even cardinals and some warblers occasionally visit suet feeders.
In winter, especially in cold climates, peanut butter is a nutritious food to offer birds. Peanut butter sold in grocery stores is certified safe for human consumption, and is safe to offer birds when cold or cool temperatures keep it fairly hard.
Mealworms are larvae of a flightless insect called the darkling beetle. Mealworms can be an excellent source of protein, calcium, and vitamins for a great many birds, including some that normally don’t visit seed feeders.To expensive? Click here.
FRUITS & FRUIT
Robins, thrushes, waxwings, bluebirds, mockingbirds, catbirds, and Baltimore orioles can sometimes be attracted to feeders providing fruit.
Pumpkin seeds and other squash or melon seeds can be extremely attractive for birds. Bake them or spread them out to dry completely, and then run them through a food processor to chop them up, which will make them easier for smaller birds to eat.
Orioles and catbirds can be enticed to visit feeders offering jelly. Offer very small quantities at a time, because jelly gets extremely sticky; small birds can become mired in it.
It’s easy to make hummingbird food with just table sugar and water.
The normal mixture is ¼ cup of sugar per cup of water.
If you mix up small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there’s no need to boil the water. But if you mix up larger batches and refrigerate part for later use, then it’s wise to make the mixture with boiling water.
There’s no need to add red food color to sugar water, or to use red-colored commercial mixes. ~Helen Yoest
Remember, too, it’s always a good idea to have fresh water out for the birds, especially in the absence of rain, when it is horribly hot, and frozen cold. A bird is three times more likely to die of thirst in the winter than from the lack of food.
Executive Director of Bee Better