Of course, feeding birds
makes an important contribution to their well being, but it should
be fun for us too. Feeding birds can be as simple or as
complicated, as you want to make it.
After deciding to feed
birds, you will need to make some menu choices. What do birds like
to eat when they come to a feeder? Even though insects make up a
large portion of the diet of many birds feeding in backyards, they
still have seed preferences. If you want to keep it simple and
make the greatest number of birds happy-fill your feeders with
Research conducted by the
Fish and Wildlife Service reveals that birds prefer sunflower
seed, white proso millet, and niger (thistle) seed. The most
popular choice, by the greatest number of species, is sunflower
seed. There are several different sunflower seeds: black oil-seed,
small black striped seed, large gray shelled seed, and a hulled
combination of the three. The small black-oil sunflower seed is
the recommended choice.
Most mixed seed combinations
include red millet along with other filler seeds and hulls, which
will be wasted and discarded by birds. It is important to note
that some of the ingredients in mixed feeds like milo attract
starlings and other undesirable birds.
White-throated Sparrows, and other
ground feeders will dine happily on scattered sunflower seed, but
if you want to throw special feed for them, white proso millet is
the best choice. Niger (thistle) is a very small seed not related
to the thistle of our fields and roadsides. Thistle needs a feeder
with tiny openings, which will accommodate the very slender bills
of birds such as the American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin. However,
if you do not want to go to the expense of putting out niger (thistle),
Goldfinches are very happy with sunflower seed.
Black-oil sunflower seed,
niger (thistle), and white proso millet are available at most
specialty bird supply, grocery, feed, or home improvement stores.
If you cannot find proso millet, feed and seed stores can special
order it for you.
There are a couple of
special feeding options to consider. Suet can be put out at
anytime of the year, but in the winter when the natural food
supply is limited, it will be appreciated by birds looking for
extra carbohydrates and protein. Commercial suet cakes are
available, but a homemade concoction is simple to prepare.
Suet Recipe - Mix
1 cup melted shortening
1 cup peanut butter
4 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
Birds seem to prefer
homemade suet recipes, which are usually made with more nutritious
ingredients than commercial products. Suet feeders are available
in the marketplace, but an old pie pan works well. Suet also can
be stuffed into holes drilled into a piece of wood, such as a
cedar log. When feeding suet in the summer, put out only a day's
supply, since it grows rancid very quickly in warm weather.
Apple, orange, banana, and
other fruits are another feeding option. Some woodpeckers and
tropical migrants will be delighted with fresh fruit or raisins.
After inviting birds into
your yard by erecting and filling feeders, do not be discouraged
if they don't show-up immediately. Usually, it takes time for the
birds to arrive, but they will come if you give them a chance to
discover your feeding station. Often people begin by feeding birds
only during the winter months but eventually maintain feeders year
round. Whatever the season, it is always fun to look out the
window to see who is visiting your feeder.