Melinda's Beginner Guide: Bird Feeder Tips

Melinda's Beginner Guide: Bird Feeder Tips

How do you attract birds to your backyard feeder?

Our cold snowy winters have many birds searching for food. Lend a helping hand by starting, continuing or expanding your bird feeding efforts.

You may not be able to plant a shepherd’s crook into the frozen ground, but look for other options. Sturdy tree branches, hooks and supports used for summer hanging baskets, and deck railings are a few possibilities.

Place bird feeders within three feet and no more than 30 feet from your home to reduce the risk of deadly window collisions. If problems continue, try hanging streamers in front of the windows or use window decals to further reduce the risk.

Select locations with nearby trees and shrubs that provide songbirds a quick escape from predators.  Avoid low-growing shrubs that provide cover for outdoor cats that kill over a billion songbirds each year.

Avoid excessively windy, wet or otherwise exposed areas that may discourage birds from visiting your feeders. Provide a bit more shelter from the elements by fastening an evergreen bough above the feeder.

Add a source of water to support and attract a wide variety of birds. You will need a bubbler, heater or aerator to prevent the water from freezing. As always, it is important to keep your birdbath clean.

Purchase quality birdseed mixes. These mixes may cost more but contain a higher percent of seeds the birds like to eat. This means more quality seed for each dollar spent. Many cheaper brands fill their mixes with milo, oats and wheat that the birds tend to discard in favor of the fewer desirable seeds that the mix contains.

Use a variety of seed and feeders to attract a diverse group of birds. And don’t forget about ground feeders like juncos, quails and morning doves.

Black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite of cardinals, buntings, chickadees, finches, grosbeaks, jays, juncos, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers. However, they are also a favorite of squirrels. Install squirrel baffles if you don’t want these critters devouring all your birdseed. Or use safflower seeds instead to keep cardinals, grosbeaks, finches, doves and sparrows happy... instead of the squirrels.

Nyjer thistle is a favorite of finches, goldfinches, siskins, and buntings. Purchase fresh seed and use a feeder that keeps it dry. Finches and others will tend to avoid stale and wet nyjer thistle seed.

White millet is another popular seed and a favorite of ground feeders such as juncos, siskins and towhees. You will also find cardinals, finches, grosbeaks and sparrows feasting on white millet.

Nuts and cracked corn attract Jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches and brown creepers. Mix them with other seed or include a specially designed nut feeder in your landscape.

Suet is an excellent food for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and jays. You may even find other birds like wrens and cardinals visiting your suet feeders.

Preformed cylinders of birdseed are another option.  They come in a variety of seed mixes, including one treated with hot pepper to discourage the squirrels. These are placed over a rod mounted on an open wire base, or inserted into a wire frame or nylon mesh bag. Feeders with covers stay cleaner and attract a variety of birds.

Help the birds find new sources of food by sprinkling some seed on the ground near the feeders.  If birds dine on the scattered seed, but still don’t visit the feeders, keep leading them closer with additional sprinkles of seed.

Keep your feeders filled so the birds know there is a reliable source of food. If your feeders go empty, it may take a few days to attract them back to your yard.

Take time to enjoy the beauty and sounds that visiting birds add to your winter landscape. Watching them will help lift your spirits until the first flowers make an appearance in your spring garden.

Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Beginner Guides with you!