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.
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
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
Dealing With Undesirable or Predatory
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
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
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.
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
Plain hot water scrubbed vigorously with a feeder-cleaning
brush can effectively eliminate unhealthy organisms while removing stains and