Bird feeding is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States. Its popularity probably stems from these three elements.
The Frugal Feeder
Anyone can enjoy feeding and watching birds. Here are a few tips from the Frugal Feeder to get you started.
You may need to start by spreading a few chips on the ground, near the window. After the birds find the food on the window ledge you can stop feeding on the ground.
This approach has the advantage of bringing the birds up close, so they can be studied and enjoyed. The use of sunflower chips keeps the cost down and eliminates most clean up requirements. You may need to rinse the window ledge on occasion.
This will attract woodpeckers, some sparrows, nuthatches, wrens, and some warbler species, as well as cardinals and mockingbirds.
A feeder can be made by drilling holes in a board or dead limb. Hang the board or limb and fill with the peanut butter mix.
Check the Attracting Birds section for low-cost suet recipes that are even more popular with the birds.
Being able to recognize the birds you see is a key step in learning to attract more birds, as well as a greater diversity of species. Different species prefer different kinds of food. With a little knowledge, you will be able to customize your feeding program to mak...
Here are a few additional tips regarding food items and feeding:
For ground and platform feeders distribute only what is eaten in a day or two at the most. When refilling hopper feeders, tube feeders, etc. make sure any remaining seed is clean and loose in the container. Watch for signs of mold and mildew in the seed or on the feeder. Clean and dry your feeder if signs of mold or mildew are present.
Egg shells can be an important source of calcium, especially for female birds during nesting. Wash and dry the egg shells, then bake at 200-300 degrees until the edges just start to turn brown. Crush and serve on the ground or a platform feeder.
Female nesting Purple Martins will consume egg shells to help replenish their calcium supply.
Orange and grapefruit halves attract orioles, jays, tanagers and woodpeckers. Chopped raisins, soaked in water to soften, and chopped up apples are popular with many species, including thrushes, mockingbirds, jays.
Blueberries, cranberries (fresh or dried) and dried cherries are also popular with fruit-eating species.
Mealworms are popular with several species and bluebirds are especially fond of them. Mealworms are not always easy to find.
Bluebirds love mealworms and will meet you at the door if you feed at the same time each day.
There is a variety of good seed blends available. Be careful in purchasing the bags of mixed seed commonly seen in grocery stores and discount stores. Many of these mixes contain large amounts of milo and other seed that may not be popular with the birds in your area. Check the bird feeding chart in this section for species and food preferences.
Some seed mixes are rich in a variety of quality seeds and fruit. Fruit may include dried blueberries or cherries. These quality mixes are most often available through stores specializing in bird feeding products.
Sunflower is probably the best all around food. Sunflower hearts are no doubt the best but are expensive. Black oil sunflower has become the most popular because it is easier for the birds to open (Some weak billed birds cannot open the striped sunflower seeds.) and contains a large kernel.
Suet is the dense fat found around beef kidneys and loins. It is available already prepared as a bird food, often mixed with peanut butter, chopped peanuts, sunflowers or other seed. It can also be found at many grocery stores, just ask at the meat counter. It will not be as neatly packaged but will work as well in cooler climates.
Suet cakes are sold in blocks and served in a wire cage.
In warmer areas the suet will need to be rendered to produce a harder product that will not melt in the heat.Render the fat by melting it in a pan or skillet. Discard any un-dissolved pieces and pour into a metal container to cool. Consider rendering outdoors or your house may have an interesting smell for quite some time....
Peanut butter and jelly popular with birds too.
We are often asked about the best seed or food for birds. The standard answer is good old black-oil sunflower. It is popular with many species, easy to serve in a variety of feeders and fairly inexpensive. Adding a little variety to the foods you serve can attract new species. And you do not have to look further than your own kitchen.
White-throated Sparrows seem to like my mix of peanut butter and cornmeal.
I prefer to purchase suet cakes, They are usually less than $2.00 and last quite a while. Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers visit my suet feeder in the winter, along with Carolina Wrens, White-breasted Nuthatch and a very protective mockingbird.