Birds, Birds, Birds

Feeding Wild Birds

Don’t forget your backyard birds once the winds turn chilly.

Now is the time that birds really need your help to survive the colder months ahead. To attract the most birds, it helps to put out well-stocked bird feeders in early autumn… before the birds establish their winter-feeding routine. Bird feeders are at their most efficient when placed at sites where birds have visited earlier in the season. Birds need a water source for drinking and bathing especially in winter. If you add a heater to birdbaths, this will encourage birds to stick around all winter. 


Tips on attracting birds to your fall or winter backyard.

Migrating birds: Give hummingbirds a boost as they head south for the winter.

Plant late summer-blooming perennials that will flower into October. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a favorite of hummingbirds. The airy sprays of lacy, blue-lavender flowers that are full of nectar…the perfect filling station to help fuel their flight south.

High energy bird seeds: In winter, some birds such as the tiny finches, will eat the equivalent of one-third of their body weight every day. It’s a good idea to offer them Nyjer seed—a very small, oily seed that is packed with lots of energy. Cardinals like sunflower meats and millet seeds that are also high in fat. They also love black oiler sunflower seeds-- easily identified by their dark shells. Safflower seed is very high in protein and fat. It’s a white seed that is a bit bitter. Although safflower attracts finches, mourning doves, squirrels, grackles, starlings & blackbirds prefer to dine somewhere else. Good!


Pair birds with their favorite bird feeders:

Tube Feeder: American Goldfinch, House Finch, Nuthatch, Titmouse

Platform Feeder: House Finch, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Titmouse

Hopper Feeder: House Finch, Blue Jay, Titmouse, Northern Cardinal

Suet Feeder: Northern Cardinal, Nuthatch, Titmouse, Warbler, Woodpecker, Wren

Nyjer or Thistle Seed Tube Feeder: American Goldfinch, House Finch, Purple Finch

Squirrel Buster Feeder: If you don’t want squirrels stealing from your birds’ buffet, give this type of bird feeder a try. Birds* can dine there but squirrels will be literally locked out!
*The Squirrel Buster Bird Feeder is weight-adjustable so it keeps out larger, unwanted birds.

Droll Yankee Feeder: Flipper, Whipper & Dipper: Each of these mechanical-type feeder try to keep squirrels off balance and away from the bird seed. 


What do you plant to attract the most birds? Native plants will attract the specific birds to your backyard by providing local birds with the foods that they have grown up with for generations. Some birds such as woodpeckers and bluebirds enjoy berries and fruits along with insects, while finches prefer the seeds of dried coneflowers in fall and winter. Native grasses offer their seeds, as well as providing shelter in winter and nesting material in spring.

1. Purple coneflowers, asters, cosmos, zinnias, Coreopsis, black-eyed Susan and sunflowers produce tasty seeds that attract American goldfinches, chickadees, evening grosbeaks, finches, cardinals and titmice.

2. Add native prairie plants such as goldenrod, gay feather, thistle, millet or blanket flower.

3. Shrubs with fruits and berries such as blueberries, viburnum, dogwood, cedar, juniper, hawthorn, winterberry, chokeberry, mulberry and Serviceberry attract woodpeckers, orioles, scarlet tanagers and waxwings.


How long will it take to see birds at the feeder after you hang it? You must have patience. It usually takes time for birds to locate the new feeder and enjoy this new source of food. Wait for up to two weeks, then try a few new ideas. First, sprinkle some of their favorite seed on the ground around the feeder. Hopefully, this will get their attention and realize there is a food source nearby. Or, try a new location. Most birds like to feel secure. Move the feeder to a new location that has shrubs or conifers where they can hide and observe their surroundings. Keep the feeder away from traffic, loud noises and predatory cats. Most birds like to remain hidden from their predators as they fly to and from the feeders.