8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding: Don’t Put Out Your Feeder Before Reading This!

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Bird feeding holds a place of high importance both for avian wildlife and bird enthusiasts.

By providing birds with supplemental nourishment, especially during times when natural food sources might be scarce, we play a crucial role in supporting their survival.

However, there are some common misconceptions about feeding birds.

For example, one prevalent myth is that feeding birds during the summer makes them dependent and deters them from seeking natural food sources.

Contrary to this belief, studies have shown that birds derive only a fraction of their daily nutrition from feeders, with the majority still coming from natural sources.

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    In this article, I will cover eight important tips on backyard bird feeding.

    8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding

    1. When to Feed Backyard Birds?

    Summer vs. Winter?

    Feeding birds is not just a summer activity; it holds significance throughout the year.

    Birds require nourishment all year round. While natural food sources might be abundant during certain seasons, they can become scarce during the winter.

    With shorter days, colder temperatures, and a scarcity of natural food sources, finding food can become a strenuous task.

    Feeders become an essential lifeline, offering birds the necessary sustenance to maintain their energy levels and body heat.

    By providing a consistent food source, you ensure that birds have a reliable place to get their nutrition, irrespective of seasonal changes.

    This is especially crucial during periods when they need extra energy, such as during migration or breeding seasons.

    Moreover, contrary to some misconceptions, summer feeding is equally vital. In the next section, let me outline some of the benefits of summer feeding.

    Why Bird Enthusiasts Should Not Miss Out on Feeding Birds During the Summer Either

    Feeding birds during the summer months offers several advantages, both for the birds and for those who enjoy observing them:

    • Increased Daylight Hours for Birdwatching: Summer’s extended daylight hours provide enthusiasts with more time to observe and enjoy the diverse bird species that visit their feeders. This extended viewing time can be particularly rewarding for those keen on birdwatching.
    • Easier Identification Due to Breeding Plumage: Birds don their breeding plumage in the summer, displaying bright colors and distinct markings. This not only adds to the visual spectacle but also makes it easier, especially for novices, to identify different species.
    • Observing Nestlings Maturing: Summer is a time when many birds rear their young. Those who feed birds in their backyards get a unique opportunity to watch nestlings grow and learn how to feed themselves. This provides a rare insight into the early life stages of birds.
    • Variety of Birds in Northern Areas: The summer months see a greater variety of bird species in northern regions. By maintaining feeders during this time, one can attract species that might not typically be seen during the winter months.

    Overall, summer bird feeding is an experience not to be missed for bird lovers. It offers unique opportunities to observe and learn about these fascinating creatures.

    8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
    Summer’s extended daylight hours provide enthusiasts with more time to observe and enjoy the diverse bird species that visit their feeders

    2. Types of Bird Feeders for Backyard Birds Feeding

    Choosing the right bird feeder is essential to cater to different bird species and their feeding habits.

    Here are some common types of feeders beginners need to know about:

    House or Hopper Feeders

    These are typically box-shaped feeders with a platform upon which seeds are spread out.

    They often come with a roof to protect the seeds from rain. Hopper feeders attract a wide variety of birds, including finches, jays, and cardinals.

    Tube Feeders

    As the name suggests, these are cylindrical feeders with multiple feeding ports and perches. They are ideal for smaller birds like finches and chickadees.

    The design ensures that the seeds remain dry, even in wet conditions.

    Tray or Platform Feeders

    These are flat, open feeders that can either be mounted on a pole or suspended. They are versatile and can attract a diverse range of birds, from sparrows to doves.

    However, they don’t offer protection from rain, so it’s essential to ensure seeds don’t become wet and moldy.

    8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
    A platform feeder

    Window Feeders

    These are small feeders that attach directly to window panes using suction cups.

    They offer an up-close view of birds as they feed. They’re great for apartments and places with limited outdoor space.

    Suet Feeders

    Specifically designed to hold blocks of suet, these feeders attract birds that enjoy this high-energy food source, such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, and starlings.

    Hummingbird or Nectar Feeders

    These are specialized feeders filled with sugary nectar to attract hummingbirds. They are usually bright red to mimic the flowers that hummingbirds naturally feed from.

    As is clear, each type of feeder serves a specific purpose and attracts certain bird species. 

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      Depending on the type of birds in your area, you can choose the most suitable feeder for your backyard.

      Comparison of Different Feeders

      Here’s a concise summary of the various types of bird feeders I discussed above.

      Type of FeederDesignBenefitsAttractsMaintenance
      House or Hopper FeedersResemble small houses with a pitched roof, platform base, and clear or mesh walls.Roof protects against rain; allows multiple birds to feed simultaneously.Finches, jays, cardinals, sparrows.Regular cleaning to prevent mold and mildew, especially in corners.
      Tube FeedersCylindrical with multiple feeding ports and perches.Seeds remain dry; multiple ports allow several birds to feed at once.Smaller birds like finches, chickadees, titmice.Use a long brush for thorough cleaning due to narrow design.
      Tray or Platform FeedersOpen, flat design, often with a raised edge.Versatile; can be mounted on poles, hung, or placed on the ground.Wide variety: sparrows, doves, blackbirds, starlings.Regular cleaning as they’re exposed to elements and can accumulate droppings.
      Window FeedersCompact feeders attaching to window panes using suction cups.Close-up birdwatching without disturbing birds.Smaller birds: finches, sparrows, titmice.Easy to clean due to accessibility and small size.
      Suet FeedersWire or mesh cage designed to hold blocks of suet.Provides high-energy food source, especially beneficial during cold months.High-fat diet birds: woodpeckers, nuthatches, starlings.Regularly check suet for mold, especially in warm weather; clean cage to prevent residue buildup.
      Hummingbird or Nectar FeedersBrightly colored, often red, with small feeding ports for nectar.Designed to attract hummingbirds, providing essential energy.Primarily hummingbirds; occasionally orioles, woodpeckers.Frequent cleaning to prevent mold and fermentation; replace nectar every few days, especially in hot weather.

      This table provides a concise overview of the different types of bird feeders, their design, benefits, the birds they attract, and maintenance tips.

      8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
      A colorful hummingbird feeder

      3. Attracting Birds to Your Feeder

      Successfully attracting a variety of birds to your feeder requires a combination of the right location, environment, and food choices.

      Here’s a detailed breakdown:

      How Do You Attract Birds to Feed?

      • Consistency: Ensure that your feeders are consistently stocked. Birds are more likely to frequent a reliable food source.
      • Water Source: Providing a birdbath or a water dish can be a significant attraction. Birds require water for drinking and bathing.
      • Safe Environment: Ensure that the feeding area is safe from predators. Placing feeders at a height and away from places where cats or other predators can hide is crucial.

      Importance of Location and Environment

      • Visibility: Place feeders where they can be easily seen by birds flying by. Near trees or shrubs can be ideal as they provide birds with a place to perch and take cover.
      • Protection from Elements: While it’s essential for feeders to be in an open space, they should also offer some protection from strong winds and direct sunlight. A location that gets dappled sunlight can be ideal.
      • Avoid High Traffic Areas: Birds are less likely to visit feeders placed in high human traffic areas. A quiet spot in your garden or yard is preferable.
      Feeding Backyard Birds in the Winter
      Bird feeders should offer some protection from strong winds and direct sunlight

      Using the Right Type of Bird Food

      • Variety: Offering a mix of seeds can attract a diverse range of birds. For instance, sunflower seeds are popular among finches and cardinals, while sparrows prefer millet.
      • Freshness: Ensure that the food you provide is fresh. Stale or moldy food can be harmful to birds.
      • Specialized Food: Depending on the species in your area, consider offering specialized food. For example, nectar for hummingbirds or suet for woodpeckers.
      • Avoid Fillers: Many commercial birdseed mixes contain fillers like wheat or barley. These are less attractive to most birds. Opt for high-quality mixes without excessive fillers.

      By paying attention to these factors, you can create an inviting environment that attracts a plethora of bird species to your feeder, enhancing your birdwatching experience.

      4. Bird Food Basics

      The type of food you offer plays a pivotal role in determining which birds you’ll attract to your feeder. Here’s a breakdown of some fundamental bird foods and their significance:

      Black-Oil Sunflower Seeds

      These are small, black seeds with a high oil content.

      Their thin shells make them easy for a wide variety of birds to crack open, and their high fat content provides essential energy.

      These seeds are popular among many birds, including finches, cardinals, titmice, and chickadees.

      Thistle or Nyjer Seeds

      Thistle seeds are tiny, needle-like seeds that are black in color.

      They are especially rich in calories and are a favorite among many finch species. These seeds are best for finches, including goldfinches, siskins, and redpolls.

      Feeding Backyard Birds in the Winter
      Various types of seeds and seed mixes are the best food for bird feeders

      Seed Mixes

      Seed mixes are a combination of various seeds, often including millet, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and more.

      You can buy seed mixes from the market or make DIY ones at home. There are several videos and tutorials of making seed mixes online.

      Seed mixes offer a diverse range of nutrients and attract a variety of birds, such as sparrows, doves, blackbirds, jays, and more.

      Suet

      Suet is a hard, fatty substance, often mixed with seeds or fruits. It provides a high-energy food source, especially beneficial during colder months.

      Birds that thrive on high-fat diets, like woodpeckers, nuthatches, and starlings prefer suet in their diets.

      Nectar

      Nectar is a sugary solution that mimics the nectar from flowers. It is an essential energy source for hummingbirds.

      Even though nectar is primarily useful for attracting hummingbirds, sometimes orioles and woodpeckers might also visit your feeder to get this food.

      Other Types of Bird Food

      • Peanuts: High in fat and protein, they attract birds like titmice, jays, and woodpeckers.
      • Fruits: Offered fresh or dried, fruits like berries, apples, and oranges can attract orioles, robins, and tanagers.
      • Jelly: Jelly is often used to attract orioles. Ensure it’s free from artificial sweeteners and preservatives.

      By understanding the preferences of the birds in your area and offering a mix of these foods, you can ensure bustling and diverse bird activity around your feeders.

      8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
      Fruits like berries, apples, and oranges can attract orioles, robins, and tanagers

      5. Tips for Bird Feeding in Specific Situations

      Bird feeding is not a one-size-fits-all activity. Different seasons bring different challenges and opportunities. Here’s a guide to help you navigate bird feeding throughout the year:

      Feeding Birds in the Balcony

      • Space Utilization: Even if you don’t have a garden or backyard, balconies can be an excellent place for bird feeders. Use hanging feeders or wall-mounted options to maximize space.
      • Protection: Ensure the feeders are shielded from strong winds or rain, especially in high-rise buildings. Using feeders with roofs or umbrellas can be beneficial.
      • Water Source: Consider adding a small birdbath or water dish. Birds are more likely to frequent places where they can find both food and water.

      Winter Bird Feeding Tips

      • High-Energy Foods: Offer foods rich in fat and calories, like suet and black-oil sunflower seeds, to help birds maintain their energy levels in the cold.
      • Regular Cleaning: Wet and snowy conditions can make feeders damp. Ensure they’re cleaned regularly to prevent mold.
      • Fresh Water: Water sources might freeze. Consider using a heated birdbath or regularly replacing the ice with fresh water.

      Summer Bird Feeding Safety Tips

      • Hydration: Ensure there’s a consistent water source for birds to drink and bathe.
      • Shade: Place feeders in shaded areas to prevent the food from getting spoiled in the heat.
      • Nectar Care: If you’re offering nectar, especially for hummingbirds, change it frequently to prevent fermentation.
      Feeding Backyard Birds in the Winter
      Winter bird feeders should carry high energy foods

      Laws and Regulations Related to Bird Feeding

      It’s essential to be aware of local laws and regulations regarding bird feeding. Some areas might have restrictions to prevent the attraction of pests or to protect local wildlife.

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        In some regions, feeding certain bird species might be prohibited, especially if they’re considered invasive or pests.

        Always ensure that the food offered is safe and non-toxic. Avoid offering foods that might be harmful, like bread or salty snacks.

        6. DIY Bird Feeder Ideas

        Creating your own bird feeder can be a rewarding experience, allowing you to offer a unique dining spot for your feathered friends. Here are some innovative DIY bird feeder ideas:

        Milk Carton Feeder

        Materials: Empty milk carton, paint, string, wooden dowel, or stick.

        Clean the milk carton thoroughly. Paint and decorate as desired. Cut out an opening on one side for the birds to access the food.

        Insert the wooden dowel below the opening to act as a perch. Punch a hole at the top of the carton and thread a string through for hanging.

        Orange Halves Feeder

        Materials: Orange, birdseed, string.

        Cut an orange in half and scoop out the pulp. Fill the empty orange half with birdseed. Poke three evenly spaced holes around the top edge of the orange peel and attach strings.

        Knot the strings at the top to hang.

        8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
        Several types of DIY bird feeders can be easily created with household materials

        Teacup Tower Feeder

        Materials: Old teacups and saucers, strong adhesive, pole or stick.

        Glue the base of the teacup to the saucer. Once dry, glue the bottom of the saucer to the pole or stick. Once everything is securely attached, fill the teacups with birdseed.

        DIY Bird Feeder Ideas for Balcony

        • Recycled Bottles: Use old plastic bottles with wooden spoons as perches. Cut small holes above the spoons for the seeds to fall onto the spoon, providing a platform for birds to feed.
        • Cup and Saucer Feeder: Glue a teacup to its saucer and hang it upside down. The saucer serves as the feeding platform, and the cup holds the seeds.
        • Pinecone Feeders: Coat pinecones in peanut butter and roll them in birdseed. Hang them using a string.
        • Hanging Fruit Basket: These can be made using wired fruit basket. Fill the basket with a mix of birdseed and fresh fruits like apple slices or grapes. Hang it in a spot easily accessible to birds.

        These DIY bird feeders can be easily customized based on the materials you have on hand and the bird species in your area.

        7. Common Bird Feeding Mistakes

        Even seasoned bird enthusiasts can sometimes make mistakes. Here’s a list of common bird feeding errors and how to avoid them:

        Overfeeding

        Continuously filling feeders can lead to an accumulation of seeds, especially at the bottom, which can become damp and moldy.

        Instead, monitor the consumption rate of the birds and adjust the quantity accordingly. It’s better to have birds empty the feeder before refilling to ensure freshness.

        Not Cleaning Feeders

        Dirty feeders can become breeding grounds for bacteria and mold, posing health risks to birds.

        Regularly clean and disinfect feeders. Ensure they are dry before refilling.

        For tube feeders, use a long brush to clean the inside thoroughly. For platform feeders, scrub the surface regularly.

        Using the Wrong Type of Food

        Offering food that isn’t suitable for the bird species in your area can lead to waste and might not provide the necessary nutrition.

        Research the bird species in your locality and offer food that caters to their dietary needs. Avoid cheap mixes with fillers like wheat or barley that most birds don’t prefer.

        8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
        Regularly clean and disinfect feeders. Ensure they are dry before refilling.

        Ignoring Seasonal Needs

        Birds have different nutritional needs based on the season. For instance, during winter, they require high-fat foods to maintain their energy levels.

        Adjust the food you offer based on the season. In colder months, provide fatty foods like suet.

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          In summer, ensure fresh water is available and offer foods that won’t spoil quickly in the heat.

          8. Addressing Common Concerns

          Over the years, I have encountered several queries about bird feeding, apart from the basic tips and information that I shared earlier.

          In this section, I will try to share specific answers to some of these questions.

          What is the Best Time of Day to Feed Birds?

          Here are the best times to replenish your bird feeder.

          • Morning: Birds expend a lot of energy overnight, so they’re actively looking for food in the early morning. Providing food at this time ensures they get the necessary nutrition to kickstart their day.
          • Late Afternoon/Early Evening: As the day winds down, birds look for food sources to replenish their energy for the night. Refilling feeders during this time can be beneficial.

          While these are optimal times, having food available throughout the day ensures that birds can feed based on their individual schedules.

          Why are Birds Avoiding My Feeder?

          Here are four common reasons why birds may not be flocking to your bird feeder:

          • Location: If a feeder is too exposed or too close to busy areas, birds might avoid it due to perceived threats.
          • Cleanliness: Dirty feeders can deter birds. Old or moldy food is not only unappealing but also harmful.
          • Wrong Food: Offering food that isn’t preferred by the local bird species can result in less activity.
          • Predator Presence: If predators like cats are nearby, birds will likely avoid the area.
          8 Tips for Backyard Bird Feeding
          Make sure that your feeder is not placed in an area that has too much traffic

          What Happens If You Stop Feeding Birds?

          Birds are adaptable creatures. While they appreciate the food from feeders, they don’t solely rely on it.

          If you stop feeding, they’ll revert to finding food from natural sources. However, sudden discontinuation, especially during harsh seasons, can be challenging for them.

          If you plan to stop, it’s best to gradually reduce the food quantity, giving birds time to adjust.

          Other Things to Be Aware of When Bird Feeding

          • Disease Outbreaks: Occasionally, there might be reports of disease outbreaks among bird populations. In such cases, it’s advisable to temporarily halt feeding to prevent the spread.
          • Invasive Species: Be aware of invasive bird species in your area. Feeding them might exacerbate the problem.
          • Local Regulations: Stay updated with local regulations or advisories related to bird feeding. Some areas might have restrictions based on environmental concerns or current events.

          By staying informed and addressing these concerns, you can ensure a harmonious and beneficial relationship with the birds you feed.

          Conclusion

          The simple act of bird feeding brings with it a multitude of joys and benefits.

          From the melodic chirping that breaks the morning silence to the vibrant flurry of colors that adorn our gardens, bird feeding transforms our living spaces into lively hubs of avian activity.

          Beyond the aesthetic and therapeutic pleasures, it also offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, right in our backyards.

          However, as with any interaction with the natural world, responsibility is paramount. It’s essential to ensure that our practices benefit the birds without causing unintended harm.

          By staying informed, using the right foods, maintaining clean feeders, and being mindful of seasonal and regional needs, we can make bird feeding a sustainable and enriching practice.

          For those who’ve yet to embark on this journey, there’s no better time to start. And for seasoned bird enthusiasts, there’s always more to learn and explore.

          So, whether you’re hanging your first feeder or have been at it for years, let’s continue to feed our feathered friends responsibly, ensuring they grace our lives for years to come.

          Thank you for reading, and happy bird feeding!

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