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Galaxy Gardens
Galaxy Gardens

Spring Bird Feeding 101

Many people are under the impression that birds do not need to be fed in the springtime when there is abundant food in nature. However, many birds are migrating from their wintering grounds and can greatly benefit from an extra source of food before their reach their ultimate destination: their breeding grounds. Many birds also have higher caloric needs in the spring and summer months because they feed their young; therefore a supplemental source of food can be beneficial.

What to Feed

Although the simplest thing to do is buy commercial bird seed, offering an assortment of seeds will attract a broader variety of birds.

Black-Oil Sunflower Seed

High in energy, the black-oil sunflower seed has a thin shell which makes it a favorite among many birds including cardinals, titmice, sparrows and finches.


Insect-eating birds like woodpeckers love to feast on suet. Inexpensive and available at many meat counters, this food attracts chickadees, cardinals, bluebirds, woodpeckers and nuthatches. Because most suet is raw beef kidney fat, it easily becomes rancid in high temperatures. If the thermometer reads above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, opt for commercial suet cakes which are often labeled “no melt,” “berry” or “insect” cakes.

Striped Sunflower Seed

With a harder shell and low fat content, this seed sports black and white longitudinal stripes, giving it its name. Because of the hardness of the shell, it is not as well liked by birds as the black-oil sunflower seed. Chickadees, Goldfinches, House finches, Cardinals, Grosbeaks and Jays enjoy this seed.


High in protein, fiber and vitamins, this small, round seed is favored by Sparrows, Doves, Cardinals, Bobwhites and Buntings. A handful or two of millet sprinkled on the ground is sure to attract sparrows and keep them coming back for more.


Attract hummingbirds and orioles by making your own nectar. Simply mix one part sugar with four parts boiling water; stir to allow the sugar to dissolve and cool. A word of caution: adding red food coloring to nectar is unnecessary and potentially deadly to birds, as is honey and artificial sweeteners. To prevent mold and fermentation, change the nectar every three to five days, especially in warm weather.


Nyjer, also known as “thistle seed,” has the ability to attract American Goldfinches, Purple Finches and Pine Siskin. This tiny, black birdseed requires a special feeder with small ports to prevent spillage.

Dealing With Undesirable or Predatory Birds

Undesirable Birds

Although some people welcome any kind of supper guest, some find aggressive birds such as Grackles, Pigeons or Crows that take over the feeders to be undesirable. To inhibit larger, combative birds from feasting at your feeder, display those that are designed for smaller birds. Tube feeders, for example, contain short perches without catch basins so larger birds have a difficult time perching on them. Another option is to purchase tube feeders that incorporate wire cages encompassing the tubes. Large birds cannot get through the feeding ports but small birds such as finches can still have access to them.

Predatory Birds

Large, predatory birds such as hawks may frighten – or even kill – small birds. Remove all feeders for several days if you notice a hawk or other carnivorous bird threatening the area to encourage it to seek elsewhere for prey.

Cleaning Your Feeders

Whether you choose to clean your feeder with bleach and water or just plain hot water, keeping your feeder hygienic is essential to keeping mold and other hazardous organisms at bay. In addition, it keeps your feathered friends safe from contracting diseases.

Bleach Solution

After making a bleach solution of nine parts water to one part bleach, scrub your feeder thoroughly. Be sure to rinse meticulously since birds have a sensitive sense of smell and might reject the feeder if the scent of bleach is still lingering.  Repeat every two weeks.

Hot Water Does the Trick

Plain hot water scrubbed vigorously with a feeder-cleaning brush can effectively eliminate unhealthy organisms while removing stains and mold.