US National Bird Feeding Month is in full swing, and we thought you might want to join the bird feeding activists. This is why we compiled a couple of basic bird feeding tips and care advice to make the activity enjoyable and safe.
Tastes differ, and birds are no exception. Here's the list of most popular seeds and birds they are likely to attract:
- Cracked corn attracts sparrows, quail, and doves;
- Hummingbirds and orioles feed on homemade nectar;
- Live and dried mealworms are a source of protein favored by bluebirds, wrens, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.
- Millet is a fav for many ground-feeding birds like juncos and sparrows.
- Nyjer is good at attracting American Goldfinches, Common Redpolls, and Pine Siskins.
- Oats are known to attract doves and quail.
- Peanuts and peanut hearts - pieces of shelled peanuts - are favored by titmice, jays, chickadees, and nuthatches.
- Safflower attracts big-billed birds like cardinals.
- Caked suet is a fav treat of insect-eating birds!
- Sunflower seeds are the most popular feeder seed type; they are a fav food of finches, cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, and even woodpeckers.
To prevent seeds from germinating in the feeder, sterilize them by one of the following methods:
- Bake the seeds in the oven for half an hour at 300 F/150 C/Gas Mark 2
- Cook the seeds placed into a paper bag in the microwave oven for 5 minutes on high power.
Choose a quiet area, where you will be able to see, access and refill the feeder. The place should also be very similar to the birds' natural habitat, but the best option is evergreen shrubs or trees to allow birds hide from predators all year round.
Avoid placing feeders near windows to prevent birds from crashing into transparent glass.
You should clean your feeder every time you refill it, which is once every two weeks, or more often if the weather conditions are warm and damp. Here's what you should do:
- Discard old seeds;
- Soak the feeder overnight in a dilute bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water) or a weak vinegar solution;
- Scrub the feeder and let it air dry;
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
The next step is to clean the area underneath the feeders:
- Remove soiled mulch from under the feeder;
- Remove any loose seeds from the ground;
- Cover the area with fresh mulch;
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
Finally, hang your feeder back, refill it with fresh seeds, and - you thought right - wash your hands.
If you choose to feed birds you should realize that it is your responsibility to create a safe environment for the feathery creatures. Therefore make sure you remember about the following:
- Avoid honey and artificial sweeteners, sugar only;
- Add a thin layer of cat litter into the bottom of the feeder to absorb water and prevent mold growth;
- Clean your feeder often to remove empty hulls and bird droppings and keep mold away;
- Clean and refill nectar trays for hummingbirds once in two to five days; keep an eye out for cloudy water and remove it immediately if you notice any sign of mold.
Bird Feeding Issues and Solutions
Bird feeders are not the safest place for birds to stay for a long time if they are not properly secured. Look through the list of possible issues your feathery friends may encounter and get ideas of how to solve or even prevent them altogether:
- Tie a bell to your cat's collar and ask your neighbors to do the same.
- If there are stray cats in your neighborhood, try live trapping but make sure you contact your local Wildlife Management before you relocate the unwanted guest, as in some areas it is illegal.
- When hanging your feeder in a tree, make sure that the branch you choose is twelve or more feet away from the trunk and four or more feet above the ground. This way you will keep away the squirrels that might jump into the feeder from the tree or the ground. Use a very thin line or wire to hang the feeder.
- If you mount your feeder on a pole, choose the pole that is 5-12 or more feet long - you will poke it a foot deep into the ground and leave the required 4 feet above to place your feeder out of the reach of squirrels.
- Get a 16-in squirrel baffler.
Keep the area surrounding the feeder clean to prevent rats and mice from feeding on loose seeds:
- Use a seed catcher;
- Keep unused seeds in sealed plastic bags or tightly closed cans;
- Use specific traps.
Raccoons can climb poles, so you should try surrounding the one your feeder is mounted on with a 2-in long piece of stove pipe 6-in in diameter.
You can also use squirrel and raccoon repellents - they are not harmful to the birds, as their main ingredient is capsaicin pepper, which birds cannot smell.
Some birds are aggressive or can simply eat all the seed mix leaving nothing for smaller ones. Here's what you can do to discourage each type:
- House Finches - remove perches ;
- Blue Jays and other large aggressive birds - choose a bird feeder with a wire mesh that will protect the seed reservoir;
- Sparrows and Blackbirds - remove cracked corn from your seed mix;
- Sparrows and Doves - avoid using seed mixes.
Birds often fly into windows because the latter are transparent and do not look like obstacles. To make them less transparent, we suggest that you:
- Shut the blinds;
- Pull shades down;
- Hang a bright ribbon outside the window;
- Adorn windows with stickers;
- If nothing of the above helps, relocate the feeder.
Placing a bird feeder in your yard can be the first step towards becoming a bird watcher, so go for it!