Gardening has been a lifelong passion for Wende and she’d like to share her passion with her readers. Follow her as she writes about her gardening adventures, lists tasks to do depending on the season, and gives easy to understand gardening advice.
Why do we feed the birds? Because we want to watch them! I always feel bad for the birds that have to brave our cold winters, so I make sure that they always have something to eat if they are anywhere near my yard. You can provide most any type of bird seed and you will attract birds, but if you'd like a variety of birds, you need to use the right type of feeders and fill them with their preferred food.
If you want simplicity, put out black-oil sunflower seeds. This one seed will attract the widest variety of birds. If you'd like to see finches, bluejays, and other pickier eaters, read on.
Who do you want to invite to dinner? Thistle is the preferred food of finches. Millet is a favorite of ground-feeding small-beaked birds such as doves, juncos, and sparrows. Cracked corn attracts ground feeding birds also, but it absorbs water and attracts deer. Safflower seed can be harder to find, but it has the advantage of not attracting squirrels and starlings if you don't mix it with other seeds. Suet is cheap and a good source of protein for insect eating birds such as woodpeckers and bluejays. If you purchase a seed mix, try to avoid milo, wheat and oats in the mix. Birds will only eat them as a last resort if at all, so much of the seed will go to waste.
How do you set the dinner table? Put thistle in a special feeder or sock that holds thistle. These are very easy to hang and it is fun to watch the finches hang on them. Ground feeders should have a screen bottom so that moisture doesn't ruin the seed, but it is impossible to squirrel proof them. House type feeders are good to hold any type of seed and cardinals like to use this kind. Tube type feeders work great for any type of seed that will fit through the feeding holes. Keeping the perches short on these discourages bully birds. A platform (tray) feeder attracts all kinds of birds because ground feeders can use it too. Mount it on a pole away from a tree so that squirrels can't jump to it.
Now that you are feeding them, keep them safe and warm. Providing dense shrubs and trees helps them to get out of the cold wind. A heated bird bath provides much needed water for them, and keep their feeders clean and dry. I leave ornamental grasses and flowers standing in my garden so that the birds eat their seeds, and they create good visuals when they are covered with snow.
This website www.birdfeeding.org/ is an excellent source of information on how to feed wild birds. It has charts that help you pick the right type of seed for the birds in your area, and also has bird identification guides and much more to get you started on your bird watching hobby.