Feeding Wild Birds
Many people fit a bird feeder in the backyard, so they could have a chance to watch the birds closer. In fact, about 50% of the households in the United States provide food for wild birds, particularly in winter when food is scarce.
If you decided to get a bird feeder you might have an array of question that range from what sort of food to serve for birds, how to serve and how to select the right feeder for the particular types of bids. The guide below will provide you with answers to all these questions and many others.
How to Choose the Right Feeder
The attract birds to your yard just set up a bird feeder. You can find a great variety of feeders available for sale. Most of them are for seeds, but some are for specific foods like sugar solution for hummingbirds, suet, or peanuts. Your choice of the feeder will depends on the type of birds you want to feed.
1. Tray or Platform Feeder
Trays work well to draw a variety of bird species. Their major flaw is lack of protection against squirrels, chipmunks, or weather. Plus the seed can often mix with droppings because birds stand right on it. When placed close to the ground tray feeders will attracts juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows. Tray feeders can be mounted on deck railings, posts, or stumps, and be suspended. Some may feature a roof to protect the food from rain or snow.
2. Hopper or House Feeder
This type of feeder provides excellent protection against the weather, but not against squirrels. Hopper feeders mounted on a pole or suspended typically lure such birds as finches, sparrows, jays, cardinals, buntings, grosbeaks, chickadees, and titmice. While hoppers keep seed cleaner they are not weatherproof, so too much of food may get moldy.
3. Window Feeder
This type of feeder made of clear plastic is suction-cupped to a window to feed chickadees, finches, sparrows, and titmice. Such feeders will enable you to enjoy close-up views of the birds while feeding. The only drawback is that the seed can easily get soiled.
4. Tube Feeder
A typical tube feeder has a shape of a cylinder and is hollow inside. It is made of clear plastic and features multiple feeding ports and perches. Such feeders ensure the seed remains clean and dry, and the models with metal feeding ports protect against squirrels. The size of the perches will determine the species of birds that will come to feed: short perches are good for sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches. Some tube feeders are equipped with perches above the feeding ports to attract birds that like to feed hanging upside down like goldfinches, for example.
5. Thistle Feeder
These feeders that come with tiny openings to dispense thistle seeds are for a wide range of small songbirds, finches and redpolls in particular. Another option to consider is to put up a thistle "sock" which is a fine-mesh bag with seeds for birds to cling.
6. Suet Feeder
It is just a wire-mesh cage or plastic-mesh bag with suet or suet mixture inside. Sometimes suet is smeared into knotholes. Suet feeders can be either tied to a tree trunk or get suspended. They are designed for feeding woodpeckers and nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, jays, and starlings. However suet cages that are open only at the bottom prevent starlings from getting in.
7. Hummingbird Feeder
This is a glass or plastic container holding artificial nectar or sugar solution. It can be bottle or saucer style. The feeding ports of the bottle or tube type feeder typically have red plastic flowers and some plastic screens that keep bees away from the sweet solution in it. Saucer types are made of plastic. Keep in mind that hummingbird feeders should be easy to clean, as they require frequent washing.
How to Choose Bird Food
The bird food you select depends on the species of birds you want to attract and the feeder style you plan to use. Typically, most birds love to eat black-oil sunflower seeds rich in fat. Because of their small size and thin shell sunflower seeds are easy for small birds to crack. Striped sunflower seeds are larger and have thicker seed coats. However, some types of birds prefer corn rather than sunflower seeds, blackbirds for example, while doves, along with many ground-feeding birds, love to eat white millet or red milo. It should be noted that commercial seed mixes contain not only sunflower seeds but also millet, oats, wheat, flax, buckwheat seeds, and red milo. Very often birds pick out the favored sunflower seeds and leave the other seeds in the feeder.
Make sure you store your bird food carefully. Keep it in a dry, cool place, in a metal can. Periodically inspect the seed for mold and get rid of any questionable seed.
Where to Place the Feeder
Consider setting up your feeder in a quiet place where it would be easy to refill it. The feeder should be near a tree or some shrubs. But make sure your feeder is not too close to shelter to prevent squirrels or cats to reach it. A distance of about 10 feet is ideal. Keep in mind that placing your feeder near windows is dangerous for the birds that can collide with them. In fact, a number of birds get killed after hitting windows. A hummingbird feeder should be put out in a place protected from the wind to prevent sugar solution from spilling. Make sure the feeder is in the shade so sugar solution doesn't spoil in the sun. And don't forget to tie red ribbons around the feeder to attract hummingbirds. Be prepared that for some time you may have no bird visitors. You may sprinkle seeds on the ground near the feeder to attract the birds.
To keep your birds healthy make sure you clean your bird feeders at least once every two weeks or more often if they are actively used. The problem is that birds can become ill if they eat moldy or decomposing seeds. Bird droppings can also spread infectious bird diseases. It is best to wash your feeder well in hot, soapy water, then soak it in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Make sure the feeder gets dry before refilling.
Don't forget to clean the ground below your feeder as well, so birdseed hulls and other waste donít pile up.
To prevent overcrowding consider placing your feeders apart from each other. Also it is important that the feeders have no sharp edges. If the birds get scratched, they may catch a disease.
"Nectar" in hummingbird feeders should be changed every three to five days. The feeders themselves need to be cleaned at least once a week with hot water and a bottle brush. Or clean it by filling the feeder with a dilute bleach solution and rinse it properly. Avoid using soap or a detergent. NEVER use honey to feed hummingbirds as it ferments easily and helps mold grow (mold is extremely dangerous to hummingbirds).