is often confronted with the dilemma of what and how to feed
birds. Attracting birds to your backyard can be successful and
more fun if a few recommendations are considered.
a variety of seeds in an assortment of feeders. The best overall
seeds to use are black, oil sunflower and safflower. Both of
these are especially attractive to Carolina Chickadees, Tufted
House Finches, Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina
Wrens, Northern Cardinals and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Over-wintering
Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches even seem to prefer black,
oil sunflower to the more expensive thistle seed.
safflower seeds can be used separately in a wide variety of hanging
feeders that have small or no perches. Some feeders simply have
holes cut out on their sides for birds to hang onto while reaching
in for seeds. The small perches and unpredictable swinging and
twisting of these hanging feeders doesn't bother small birds
or woodpeckers, but usually discourages larger birds such as
Common Grackles, Blue Jays, American Crows and European Starlings.
These birds scare everything away from a feeder with their aggressive
behavior. They also prey upon small birds' eggs and young, so
you may not want to encourage them to your yard.
as Northern Cardinals that don't like the instability of hanging
feeders can be attracted to your yard by using platform-type
feeders. Platform feeding can consist of simply scattering seed
on a piece of wood, a tabletop, railing, or flat rock. Never
throw seeds on the ground. Ground seeds will quickly spoil and
contaminated with fungus, bacteria, and bird droppings. It also
becomes a cat-trap for unwary birds.
Use red milo,
white millet, cracked corn, and cracked peanuts on your platform
feeders and you will have better luck attracting Dark-eyed Juncos,
Mourning Doves, Eastern Towhees, and a variety of winter sparrows.
Don't forget to throw in handful of black, oil sunflower
or safflower seeds for the Northern Cardinals,
Indigo Buntings and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.
including platforms, should be cleaned every few weeks with,
hot soapy water. Clean feeders and birdbaths are important for
the health of birds.
The water in
a birdbath may need to be emptied and refilled every day especially
in the summer when algae and mosquitoes thrive. Dripping water
into a birdbath will attract more birds than quiet water. Be
sure to hang or place the bath far away from seed feeders so
that hungry birds do not perch above the water while waiting
their turn for food. Their droppings will quickly foul their
are a problem (when aren't they?) use a large plastic, domed
baffle over a small squatty hanging feeder. If the edge
of the baffle comes down far enough over the feeder, squirrels
will find it more trouble than its worth and go next door to
your neighbor who doesn't use a baffle. There is really no way
squirrels off a platform feeder unless it is perched atop a pole
at least 20 feet from branches or tree trunks and successfully
baffled from beneath. And even then, the smarter squirrels will
get to it.
to your yard is even easier than attracting other birds. Any
hummingbird feeder will work, but you might experiment with different
styles to see which works best for you. A mixture of four parts
water and one part sugar is best. Bring it to a boil and refrigerate
what you don't immediately use.
Don't use red food coloring, honey or any store-bought mixture.
Ants can be kept off the many feeders by using an "ant guard"
or by spreading oil or vaseline over the string or wire from
which the feeder hangs. Bees and yellow jackets can be prevented
from annoying hummingbirds by carefully spreading a little oil
around the feeder's holes, being careful not to get it into any
holes. Many feeders now come without the yellow "flowers"
around each hole. Since bees and wasps are attracted to yellow,
these feeders may be less attractive to them. Most of the
flat feeders also come with built-in ant guards.
hummingbird feeder out all year if you live in the south.
Although only Ruby- throated Hummingbirds nest in the eastern
part of the country, many western species have been seen regularly
during the winter months. If you see any hummingbirds from early
November through mid-March, call your local Audubon Society so
that they can come out and determine which species you have.
Ornithologist, President Birding Adventures, Inc.