Feeding Birds

Feeding Birds


Feeding birds is lots of fun. There are many types of feeders and each will attract different birds. The bird seeds and food you put out will also determine which birds (and animals) will come to your feeders.

Have you ever thought of putting out peanut butter in a pine cone? How about half an orange? You will be amazed at the birds that show up!

To attract hummingbirds, add 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of boiling water and cool. Do not add red coloring to the water. The hummingbird feeder can be red -- hummers are attracted to anything red!

Wild Birds eat more than bird seed! A LOT more!

Most birds do not eat seeds. The reason these birds will not come to your feeder is that they prefer eating live insects or fish or something else. Birds that eat seeds tend to have heavy, thick bills for cracking seed kernels. Cardinals and Finches are good examples of seed-eating birds.

To attract the other birds, try hanging a suet cake by your bedroom window for the woodpeckers and nuthatches. Put out orange halves for the Orioles. Spread peanut butter on a pine cone and hang it outside your school window. Plant a cherry tree in your side yard. Build a pond and stock it with fish.

Be creative and see what you can attract. Try popped popcorn, peanut hearts, soaked raisins, pieces of fruit like grapes or oranges or apples, fruit seeds (melons, apples), grape jelly (another oriole favorite), cooked potatoes, leftover oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal. Some birder watchers even go so far as to put out a tray of live mealworms for the Bluebirds!

Accipiters like Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks eat other birds. If one swoops down on your bird feeder and carries off someone for lunch, don't worry about it. That is the way Mother Nature works. The fittest birds will usually survive. If this bothers you, take down your feeders for a few days. The Hawk will move to another location.

It is OK to feed the birds. Feeding the birds will not cause them to depend on your feeders exclusively.

Commercial bird seed comes in a variety of mixtures. Cheaper mixtures will contain large amounts of buckwheat, rice, oats, milo, flax, rape seed, cracked corn and canary seed.

What the birds really want to eat is black oil sunflower seeds. To avoid the mess of sunflower hulls, may people decide to spend a bit more and buy the hulled sunflower seeds containing only the "hearts" or "chips" of the sunflower.

If you buy a mixture of seeds, you may find that birds scatter most of the seeds on the ground, trying to get at the sunflower seeds. It is better to place these mixtures on a flat platform feeder, rather than in a hopper type feeder. There will be less waste and fewer seeds will wind up on the ground. Seeds on the ground will attract doves and some birds, but they will also attract mice, raccoons and other critters you may not want at your feeder.

Niger seed is a favorite food of Goldfinches. It resembles small grains of wild rice and has a high fat and protein content. Niger is also known as thistle. Many people think they will be growing thistle weeds in their yard if they offer this seed. In fact, niger is not a thistle at all. It's the seed of the niger plant native to Ethiopia. Niger seed sold as birdseed is heated to prevent it from germinating. Tube type feeders with small openings are used as Niger or "Thistle" feeders.

Hi! I mixed peanut butter, suet and corn meal for the birds in my area (South Florida, East Coast between West Palm and Ft. Lauderdale). After only 5 days of having the PB Suet outside, besides the vast increase in birds in our direct vicinity, we awoke to the loud squawking of 3 wild parrots at the feeder. They are bright green, with turquoise in their breast and black on their heads and wing tips. The suet was gone quickly and the next day when I replaced it we had over 8 parrots in the tree and a total of 15 around the condo. I am so excited and thrilled with the advice on your site and the results! Thank you! -- Kristi

Here is the recipie that Kristi used:

Peanut Butter Suet

    • 2 cups crunchy peanut butter
    • 4 cups quick cook oats
    • 2 cups lard
    • 4 cups corn meal
    • 2 cups white flour
    • 2/3 cup sugar

Melt peanut butter and lard in a large pot over a low flame. Add the remaining ingredients. Place the mixture into square freezer containers, packing firmly to approx. 1 ½ inches thick. Cover and freeze. Raisins or chopped nuts are optional. 

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