February 28, 2020
It’s best to add variety to your feeder arrangement by including different types of feeders such as this nectar feeder for hummingbirds. (Keith Sutton photo)
The best foods for wild birds are the kinds that grow on natural vegetation in your backyard bird habitat, such as fruit, seeds, nuts and insects. But most people who work to attract birds to their backyards do so with bird feeders. A properly placed feeder filled with the right seeds or other foods will coax birds to come out and eat near windows, decks or patios where they can truly be seen and enjoyed.
When filling your feeders with seeds, be sure you don’t use bargain-basement bird seed that contains inexpensive fillers such as cracked corn, milo, oats or wheat, which appeal to very few birds. Take milo, for example. Also known as grain sorghum, it’s typically used for livestock feed and ethanol production, but it’s also a common filler in many wild-bird seed mixtures. Problem is, most birds you’re likely to see in your backyard are unlikely to eat it, and if you feed mixes containing milo, you’ve wasted money.
It’s better to buy more desirable types of bird seed in bulk so you’re feeding only what you know birds will eat. These include black oil sunflower seeds, nyger or thistle seed, peanuts, safflower and white proso millet.
Keep a supply of your personal blend on hand for conveniently refilling bird feeders. By offering the best bird foods, you’ll find a greater variety of birds visiting your feeders even on the coldest days.
Just as birds have different diet preferences, different species prefer different feeder styles. By including several types of feeders in your home viewing area, and placing them at varied heights and locations, you help maximize the variety of bird species you’ll see.
Covered tray feeders, hopper feeders and tube feeders attract the widest variety of seed-eating feeder birds. But you also should consider adding one or more mesh socks or specialty thistle (nyger) feeders for finches and siskins; suet feeders for woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, warblers and jays; mealworm dishes for bluebirds, grosbeaks, mockingbirds and other insect eaters; nectar feeders for hummingbirds (in summer); jelly/fruit feeders for orioles; and low, open platform feeders for attracting ground feeders such as song, fox and white-throated sparrows, towhees, cardinals, doves and juncos.
Ideally, you should have feeders placed in all the different feeding niches—some at ground level, some at eye level, some hanging from tree branches and some on tree trunks. Feeders in each niche will attract different kinds of birds.
Of course, you’ll want to have a clear, unobstructed view of your feeders from inside your house, so keep that in mind, too. Set up your feeders where you can enjoy watching them from a cozy, comfortable spot near a window or patio door.