From spring to fall there is enough natural food around that birds don’t seek feeders. As winter approaches and natural food becomes less abundant, bird feeders become appealing. There aren’t many special tricks to attract birds to feeders, but here are some suggestions to help attract the most birds of the greatest variety to your feeder.
- There are lots of commercial feeders available, but you can make one pretty easily from plans on the internet (g. http://home.howstuffworks.com/bird-feeders.htm ). Even throwing seeds on the ground works, although you’ll also attract mice and insects, etc, so I don’t recommend that.
- Place the feeder about five feet above the ground to deter cats and other predators. Put it near some bushes or trees so that the birds can retreat to them if they feel threatened. It’s ok to put it near or even next to a window, but make sure the window is not in their flight path so they don’t crash into it.
- Almost any kind of bird seed works, but black oil sunflower seeds are especially attractive. The cheapest seed mixtures have few sunflower seeds and have fillers like cracked corn. More expensive mixes with hulled and whole sunflower seeds and peanuts will attract more birds. Bigger seeds attract bigger birds and smaller seeds smaller birds.
- After a rain, clean the feeder and remove wet seeds as they will clog the feeder and sprout.
- A source of water like a bird bath or pond or even a bucket of water nearby will help attract birds.
- If you want to expand the variety of birds that visit your feeder, you can add mealworms or insect meal, but they are considerably more expensive than seed. Fruit like orange slices, bananas, grapes may also attract feathered visitors. And suet (beef fat) might attract nuthatches and woodpeckers. What food you choose depends on where you live and what kinds of birds are around.
- See my website Ornithology.com for more information on feeders and feeding birds and links to other sites.
That’s really all you need to know. Birds will come – but give them time. It may take several weeks for them to discover the bird feeder.
Some people think that they should take down their bird feeders because it interrupts southward migration. Birds have a genetic migratory urge triggered by decreasing daylength; feeders will not interfere with migration. Another big concern is leaving the feeders to be depleted when going away for a few or several days. Very recent studies at Cornell have shown there is no difference in death rates of birds who are deprived of a feeder source and those that are not. Only in extreme weather conditions such as a blizzard with serious snowfall does it make a difference –weather we do not have around here. So, it is fine to leave the feeders go empty and enjoy guilt-free days away from home.