How to Attract Birds
From gulls that follow in
the wake of ships to crows that stay close behind the plow, birds have
been a natural companion of man for ages.
Create the right environment for them around your home today and you
will not only help them survive but you will also enjoy their company
and entertainment throughout the year. Feeding birds around the calendar
is a good choice. Remember that birds have little choice in winter when
once they become dependent on your feeding station. Continue to supply
them until natural foods are available for them in the spring.
Because they start feeding at sunup, make sure your feeders are ready
for business by filling them in the evening. Birds will find your
provision for them -- shelter, water and food -- when you make the
effort to welcome them in the following ways.
Natural Shelter and Special Housing
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Evergreens and hedges near your feeding location will not only provide
summer nesting sites, but also places to roost out of the winter winds.
If well constructed and sited, nesting boxes to fit species from wood
ducks to wrens usually attract tenants interesting to see and a pleasure
to hear. Another benefit is provided by a colony of martins, experts at
clearing out mosquitos and other night insects. Because martins will
also eat dragonflies, another enemy of the mosquito, swifts and swallows
may be more welcome as the evening airforce.
Bird Houses -- Build or
Various styles and sizes of bird houses are available at most nurseries
or pet supply shops. Hole size is important and must fit the size of
bird you want to attract. Wren houses should have a 1-inch hole while
bluebirds require a 1-1/2-inch entrance.
When building your own bird houses, remember to incorporate drainage
holes in the floor and air conditioning openings at the top. And make
provision for easy cleanout at the end of the season with a trap door or
Water Sends up its Own Signal
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To birds in flight, your birdbath mirrors the sky and is an easily seen
invitation to stop for a drink or a dip. The best designs have a
gradual, sloping rim where your guest can wade in, but big flowerpot
saucers and container lids may also be used. The most attractive baths
include a fountain or dripping water to add some sound and action;
robins enjoying a spinning garden sprinkler show the strength of this
appeal. Because birds need water in winter too, automatic electric
heaters may be used to prevent icing.
Using Plants to Attract Birds
Bending to the ground with loaded seedheads, the yellow
sunflower looks like the original golden arches to a great
many hungry birds beside the predictable golden finches.
Sunflowers are easy to plant year after year, but there
are also many shrubs and trees that are natural food sources
season after season. Elderberry attracts about as many
species as sunflowers, and is an effective feeder from
midsummer through fall. As for vines, the trumpet vine
can be home for cardinal nests, and provides nectar for
hummingbirds. The twining bittersweet sets out
attractive berries in the fall that also make attractive dried
arrangements for indoors.
Shrubs and Trees for
Birds to Feed on Top
The Russian olive tree, flowering dogwood, and juniper
trees and shrubs produce fruit that is available to birds all
winter. Viburnum, red cedar, hawthorn and holly
are also natural food producers for the cold, dark months.
A menu of other trees
and shrubs to consider for attracting birds would include
wild plum, cherry, crabapple and honeysuckle. Your choice
will depend on local climate, soil, and available space in your
yard. For specific answers to this important part of your
birdlife program, see your nursery center or contact the county
office of the Agricultural Extension Service.
Welcome Birds -- and Keep Them
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Feeding stations should be placed where you can see them from
the house, but also near shrubbery or other bird
shelter.Remember the importance of wind shelter in the design of
the feeder itself, too. Pole-mounted types, hanging types,
window-mounted feeders, ground-level stations like a horizontal
windowscreen on legs can all be successful.
Features to Look forTop
Whether you purchase or build a feeder, ease of filling and cleaning,
and a protected seed hopper large enough for several day's use should be
a consideration. Unless it is supplied at time of purchase, you might
want to build your own hanging screen-table for underneath the popular
thistle-seed feeders. It will conserve seed and reduce their sprouting
in your yard or garden below.
Here from the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Urban Wildlife Research Program is a menu of
preferred foods for 17 common birds.
Preferred Foods of
Sunflower kernels and pieces,
, oil-type sunflower seeds, Niger seeds
Blue Jay: All
types of sunflower seeds, and peanut kernels
Catus Wren: Peanut kernels, and Suet/Cakes
All types of sunflower seeds and Safflower
Cedar Waxwing: Bush berries; no seeds
Sunflower kernels and pieces, striped sunflowers, Niger seed, and
Thrusher: Milet and milo
Canary seed, finely cracked corn, and Millet
All types of sunflower seeds and finely cracked corn
Evening Grosbeak: All
types of sunflower seeds and finely cracked corn
All types of sunflower seeds, Millet, peanut kernels, and milo
All types of sunflower seeds, peanut kernels, and nectar
Striped sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels and pieces, oil type
sunflower seeds, Niger seeds, and Safflower
House Sparrow: All
types of sunflower seeds, crary seed, finely cracked corn, and millet
Striped sunflower seeds and oil type sunflower seeds
Millet, Niger seeds, oil type sunflower seeds, and Safflower
Striped and oil type sunflower seeds, peanut kernels, and Safflower
Purple Finch: All
types of sunflower seeds, Niger seeds, and Safflower
All types of sunflower seeds and peanut kernels
Flickers: Peanut kernels and Safflower
Oil type sunflower seeds, finely carcked corn, and peanut kernels
Song Sparrow: Millet
Striped and oil type sunflower seeds, peanut kernels, and Safflowers
Sunflower kernels and peices, oil type sunflower, Millet, peanut kernels
and hearts, Niger seeds
Striped sunflower, sunflower kernels and peices, oil type sunflower
seeds, Millet, peanut kernels
White-winged Dove: All types of sunflower seeds,
Millet, and milo
All types of sunflower seeds, and suet/cakes
Photos Courtesy of...
Over 1100 bird slides.
Call (607) 254-2450.
producers of collectible
and educational nature
Sunflower -- The Basic
Perhaps the most popular wild bird seed is the sunflower, available as
thinshell black oilseed, or striped types, whole or hulled. There is no
spring cleanup required with the latter. Periodically, be sure to remove
and destroy moldy feed seeds to protect your birds from disease.
Serving up a Power Diet
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Birds require these types of
concentrated high-energy foods for daily activity and for keeping warm
on winter nights. Black sunflower oil seeds are preferable to the larger
striped seeds for this, and peanut products are another good
high-calorie-per-weight alternative. The classic concentrated food is
animal suet. This can be fed in a wire mesh cage on the side of a tree
or post, in a hanging plastic onion-net bag, or in a hanging log
specially bored for plugging with this hard, waxy fat.
Seed Mixes --
Too Much Millet?Top
Prepared feed mixes make feeding easier, but check them for the
proportions of red millet and grain sorghum (milo). These lower the cost
of ready-mixed bags but also attract pigeons, blackbirds, and grackles,
and may require increased spring cleanup of rejected grains.
Some Common PreferencesTop
High-octane fuel for ground-feeders like doves and juncos should include
cracked corn or white millet. For goldfinches or purple
finches and pine siskins, hulled sunflower seed or Niger from
a vertical tube feeder are top choices. If you mix your own treats for
birds, as with peanut butter or suet, remember to include a small
fraction of sand to provide grit necessary to these toothless diners.
The red-bellied woodpecker is a suet-eater who will also eat
cracked corn. Blue jays will go for either corn or sunflower
seed, also a favorite of the house sparrow.
Perhaps the most exciting and colorful gourmets to attract to
your home are thehummingbirds. About fifteen kinds enter
the United States, mostly in the Southwest, but the
Rubythroat can be found almost everywhere east of the
Missouri River and across southern Canada.
Migration takes it across
the Gulf of Mexico, 500 miles on about 2 grams of fat. A real acrobat,
the hummingbird has been clocked at speeds of over 50 miles an
hour, yet can hover motionless and fly backwards in its feeding
activity. Specialized feeders are required for these guests, and also
special food in the form of imitation nectars. Whatever the feeder
design, their attraction is in the use of red blossom shapes, with a
reward of prepared nectar. If you make your own treat for these feeders,
avoid using honey, which can mold easily. One part of sugar to four
parts of water by volume, boiled, is a suggested recipe. Have your
hummingbird station ready in early spring. Some of their favorite
natural fly-ins include honeysuckle, petunias, phlox, nicotiana, azaleas
and trumpetvine. They'll help you keep you yard clear of insects too!
are the innkeeper, and it's your decision to feed all comers or
just the smaller birds. With perch-type feeders, reducing the
length of the pegs will make it harder for grackles or cowbirds,
for example to get a toehold.
In spite of all your care, it
can still be a jungle out there, with the presence of hungry
squirrels or predatory cats.
With squirrels, the
object is to keep the raider away from the feeding shelf and the
seed reserve. Ingenious feeder designs that lock up or trip
under the weight of squirrels, and floppy guards that defy the
offender when it tries climbing the feeder pole are two types of
The best Niger feeders have
seed ports armored with metal shields to protect against gnawing
squirrels. Dropping down from a tree branch high overhead, squirrels
have even broken feeding stations off their mountings. One response
is to build strong
feeders in the first place, be prepared to devise
countermeasures, and to enjoy the daily exploits of these wily,
four-footed foragers. Another alternative is to set up a
squirrel feeding station with ear corn or some other favorite
food at a distance from the bird feeder. This, however may also
be attractive to raccoons or possums. T. and T. is another
solution -- trapping and transporting. Box-type traps are
humane, but should be opened at a remote destination as soon as
possible to release the offender.
If the cat is your own, you
can keep it indoors at feeding time.
For neighborhood cats, try to allow as little cover as possible -- make
it easy for birds to see the danger. And hang feeders high up -- cats
can leap more than four feet off the ground to bring down their prey.
Now Add to Your EnjoymentTop
Keep a pair of binoculars handy, together with an illustrated guidebook
for bird identification. Watch how the goldfinches dress up for spring
and look for new visitors passing through as the seasons change. You'll
enjoy these customers more, just knowing how you've helped them with a
healthful menu at your feeding stations.
Some facts may vary
by region. Please check with your local lawn and garden dealer if
concerned about possible variations.
- Pick location
·near nesting sites?
·protection from wind?
·good view from house?
- Birdhouses for small
- Birdhouses for larger
(bigger than 1-1/2" hole)
- Martin houses
- Hummingbird station
- Suet cage or log
- Screen table to catch
- Bird book to identify
- Bird seed (see table
- Squirrel feeder
- Bird feeder