For the whole month of April, we are going to be talking Wild Birds! Feeding wild birds is a popular pastime for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike. It can be a rewarding experience, both for the birds and the observer. But if you’re new to feeding wild birds, it can also be daunting. What type of bird feeder should you use? What kind of seed should you offer? What mistakes do first-timers make when feeding wild birds? Let’s take a look at how to get started feeding wild birds, and how Braxton’s Animal Works can help you on your bird-watching journey!
Types of Bird Feeders
The type of bird feeder you choose will depend on what kind of birds you want to attract and the size of the area you have available for a feeder. If you have limited space or only want to attract smaller songbirds, a hopper feeder is probably your best option. Hopper feeders usually feature an enclosed container with one or more openings where the seed is dispensed. This type of feeder protects the seed from wind, rain, and snow while also preventing larger animals like squirrels from getting at it.
Tube feeders are another popular option; they feature several perches around a tube-shaped container that dispenses the seed as the birds eat it. Tube feeders come in different sizes, which means they can accommodate different types of seeds and attract different sizes of birds. Platform-style or tray feeders are another common choices; these are ideal for attracting ground-feeding species such as doves and juncos, but may not be suitable for larger species such as cardinals or jays.
Suet Feeders are a great choice for bird watchers that hate a mess of seeds on the ground. Suet is a high-energy food that’s popular with woodpeckers, nuthatches, and other insect-eating birds. Since it’s a solidified brick/cylinder of seed, which has a minimal mess. Suet feeders come in different shapes and sizes, but the most common type consists of a wire mesh cage with one or more small openings where the bird can insert its bill.
Another type of feeder is the tray or platform feeder. This type of feeder is best for attracting ground-feeding birds such as doves and juncos. Tray feeders come in different sizes, from large platform feeders to small tray-style dishes. These feeders can be tricky if you have other wild animals such as squirrels in your area since the seed is usually exposed and easily accessible.
Nyjer Feeders, also known as thistle feeders, are specifically designed for small finches. They feature a mesh tube with one or more perches and small openings at the base where the seed is dispensed. Since Nyjer feeders are designed to disperse only very small seeds, they can prevent larger birds from getting to the food.
What You Need to Get Started
In the simplest form, all you need is seed to get started! You can simply spread the seed in your yard and start observing! This method also attracts any critters that enjoy seed to your yard, so if you want to purchase a feeder to centralize feeding here are the steps to take:
- Choose a location for your feeder
- Choose a feeder (keep in mind if you will have to hang it on something or install a post)
- Determine what kind of birds you would like to see
- Choose your seed based on your feeder type and the breed of bird you prefer (we are going to talk more about seed types next week!)
- Fill Feeder
- Watch and Enjoy!
Typical Mistakes First-Timers Make Setting Out Bird Seed
Using Too Much Seed
One mistake first-timers often make when setting out birdseed is using too much at once. Not only can this lead to spoiled seed due to excessive moisture, but it can also attract pests like mice and rats in search of an easy meal! Another common mistake is using seed that isn’t suitable for your local species – some types (such as millet) may be attractive to certain small songbirds but not larger ones like cardinals or blue jays, so research your local species before buying any seed!
Placement of your feeders is also another mistake first-timers can make. When selecting a spot for your bird feeder, make sure it is not near windows or other obstacles that birds can fly into. An ideal location would be one with trees and shrubs so the birds have somewhere to perch when they’re preparing to use the feeder. Just ensure there are no thick branches nearby as cats may hide underneath them and attack unsuspecting birds.
Infrequent Cleaning/Seed Cycling
Lastly, always remember that any food source can potentially become contaminated with diseases if left out too long without being replaced – keep an eye on your birdseed levels and replace old seeds regularly! Regularly clean your feeders at least every two weeks, and more often during wet weather. Keep in mind that fungus and bacteria can easily grow on damp seeds–particularly if you have an open platform feeder. Don’t let this happen; keep those birds happy by maintaining a healthy environment with regular cleaning!
Feeding wild birds is a rewarding hobby that many people enjoy all over the world – but it does require some knowledge about what type of feeder works best for what kind of bird, what kind of seed will attract which species, and avoiding common mistakes first-timers make when setting out bird seed. Join us next week as we continue our wild bird series with Pennsylvania’s bird breeds and how to choose the write seed to attract our feathery friends! Happy birdwatching!