Garden Solutions Center Blogs
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What and How to Feed Different Types of Birds
Feeding birds attracts them to your yard and will help control the bug population around your home. You’ll be amazed at the different varieties of wild birds you’ll see when you offer them bird food and water.
What to feed birds
Different types of birds are attracted to different types of bird seed and other bird food sources depending upon the season. The Humane Society of the United States warns against feeding birds bread. Designed for human consumption, bread has little nutritional value for birds and moldy bread can harm them.
- Black oil sunflower seed is preferred by the widest variety of birds. Different than striped sunflower seeds, the black oil type has thin shells and a beneficial high fat content. The thicker shell of the striped sunflower seed is also a favorite, but is difficult to open for smaller birds.
- Safflower also has a thick shell, but even so, cardinals love it, as do chickadees, doves, grosbeaks and native sparrows.
- White millet is favored by ground-feeding birds such as quail, doves, juncos and cardinals. The downside of millet is that it can also attract bully birds such as blackbirds and cowbirds.
- Milo (or sorghum) is favored by jays and thrashers and should be used only on the ground or in low feeders.
- Thistle seed (or Nyjer) is a favorite of all types of lovely finches.
- Suet will attract insect-eating birds and is inexpensive to buy at your butcher or in a processed cake formwith seeds and berries. Use beef fat only in temps below 40 degrees, or it can become rancid.
- Red sugar nectar attracts hummingbirds to their bird feeders, but so does mixing 1 cup sugar with 4 cups of boiling water to make your own nectar.
- Avoid bird seed mixes that contain shelled or cracked corn. Many types of birds will eat it, but it also will attract unwanted critters to your feeding stations. Corn is also easily contaminated and should never be allowed to get wet.
- Inexpensive mixed bird seed often contains “fillers” such as golden millet, red millet and flax that most birds won’t eat. Birds are smart and will pick out what they want and scatter on the ground what they don’t want, where it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. (Read package ingredients before making a purchase.)
It’s important to keep your bird feeders clean on a regular basis by washing them with soap, water and Clorox to avoid the spread of contagious bird diseases. Feeding birds is a responsibility. When their food is mixed with feces, the area becomes a messy breeding ground for bacteria. Keep these tips in mind before placing any bird feeders:
- Ground — A ground feeder is the easiest to clean and move around your yard.
- Window— Hang a feeder close to a window for a “bird’s eye” view.
- Tree — Reluctant wild birds often find tree stations convenient and safer.
- Pole — Multiple feeders on the end of a pole stuck in the ground can accommodate more birds.
We have quite a few finches that fly through here around this time of year-glad to see a bird seed that specifically attracts them!
We used to visit a house in the country when I was younger that always had suet on a couple of trees for woodpeckers. It was a such a treat to see when we were there!