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If you are looking to attract birds to your garden, there are many things you can do. But one of the simplest and most effective is to install bird feeders. There are lots of different types so it’s worth getting clued up on which is best for your local birdlife.
Why You Should Feed Backyard Birds?
There are natural shortages of food for birds, so by doing your bit, you are helping along the natural ecosystem. But more than this, birds are subject to a whole host of problems such as the weather and predators. Giving them somewhere safe to feed means that they can do so in the least stressful way.
Plus, putting out bird feeders means you’ll attract a variety of avian life to your garden, which allows you to observe these animals up close.
Main Types of Bird Feeders
Not all types of bird feeders are designed to feed all types of birds. Therefore knowing which is best suited to your local wildlife is essential. Here’s our rundown on the most common types of bird feeders.
Tube feeders can be used to hang from trees as well as purpose-built hooks and are made from durable plastic or metal, allowing you to see how much seed remains inside. There are lids and bases attached which can be removed to make for easier cleaning. There are small openings within the tube feeder that allow the birds to access the seeds.
There are some models that rely on the birds holding onto the mesh with their feet, whereas some have small perches.
The size of your tube feeder will determine the types of birds it attracts. However, tube feeders are an excellent choice for small bird species like sparrows, finches, and chickadees.
By including a platform feeder in your garden, you will attract the widest range of birds. Many ground species like towhees and mourning doves will appreciate a platform feeder as well as things like jays, cardinals and other larger species.
This is one of the most simple bird feeders and features a tray on a stand, or some can be suspended from above. Generally speaking, you will want it at least three feet above the ground, and to make sure that you replace the seed every day.
It is also important to choose a platform feeder with good drainage otherwise the seed will become moist and spoil more quickly.
Hopper feeders also known as house feeders are one of the most popular choices and have a reservoir where the bird seed is placed. At the bottom of the feeder, there are holes where the seed can fall through to a tray. It is from this tray that the birds take their food. There are several different designs of hopper feeder, from something pretty simple to those that are far more decorative.
You can mount a hopper feeder, or they can be suspended like the tube feeder. There are various sizes which can be used to attract different birds.
By installing a hopper feeder in your garden you will be likely to attract things like finches, cardinals, sparrows and jays.
Mealworm feeders consist of a small dish or dome, typically made from glass or plastic. They are usually hung from a tree or pole and are ideal for offering food such as mealworms.
This type of bird feeder will bring a whole host of birds that enjoy eating insects, most notably, the bluebird.
The nyjer feeder is designed with one purpose in mind; to dispense thistle seeds. While the design is very similar to that of the tube feeder, a typical tube feeder would be too large to house these types of seeds. They’re very small so they would simply fall out.
But with smaller openings and a special design, your nyjer feeder is perfect for this seed that a lot of birds go crazy for. You can suspend the feeder from a tree or on a pole alongside other types of feeders.
It’s important to remember that this type of feeder may be prone to squirrels, so using a baffle is a good idea. When hung, this thistle feeder will attract many types of birds, including pine siskins, goldfinches, and redpolls.
Nectar feeders are most notable for their bright colors and are typically made from either plastic or glass. Inside, you can add liquid feed, which goes into a feeder shaped like a bottle. There are perches for the birds to sit as they feed, and the most common species you’ll see here is the hummingbird, thanks to its love of nectar.
You can buy liquid nectar feeds, but it is also possible to make your own. It’s very simple and is just a blend of four parts water with one part sugar. Make sure that you chill the mix until you are ready to use it and keep your feeder very clean.
Oriole Fruit Feeder
As the name may suggest, the oriole fruit feeder is mainly used to attract an array of oriole species, including hooded orioles and western tanagers. These birds usually take their nectar supply from flowers, but an oriole feeder normally has a well or reservoir for liquid food.
They also have wires to attach pieces of fruit such as oranges, and others have places to add a variety of fruits on an open tray, such as grapes and apples.
If you are keen to see nature up close and personal then a window feeder is a great choice. These feeders can be attached to your window or any other type of glass using suction cups. They will normally attract smaller bird species since they are generally smaller in size, so expect visitors like finches, sparrows, and titmice.
Do keep in mind that because they are so small, they can only hold a little seed at once. For this reason, it is recommended to place them within easy reach so you can top them up without difficulty.
Suet feeders are best left for the colder months as the suet, which is essentially beef fat, will quickly spoil in warmer weather.
You can buy premade suet feeders if you want something more convenient, or you can make your own. Do this by placing the suet inside an onion bag and hanging it for the birds. Some people also stuff a suet and seed mixture into things like pine cones for a natural version of this feeder.
Including a suet feeder in your garden is likely to attract a good array of bird species, including nuthatches, woodpeckers, and starlings.
What Type of Food Should I be Using in a Bird Feeder?
As well as having a variety of bird feeders, if you want to bring in the largest selection of birds, you will also need to offer different types of food. Not all bird species feed on the same things but below are some of the most common wild bird foods you can offer.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent choice if you want a general food that will attract a lot of different bird species. You even have choices as to how you serve it. Some people leave the shells on while others crack them open, but regardless, you will see everything from chickadees and finches to grosbeaks and jays and perhaps even a woodpecker or two.
However, these also attract a lot of bully birds, so you need to be mindful of the type of feeder you use. Using a smaller type of feeder will prevent the larger bully birds from gaining access, and you should always avoid platform feeders for sunflower seeds.
While regular sunflower seeds are more affordable, sunflower hearts allow birds to eat more rapidly. Moreover, since there are no shells, you won’t have as much mess to clear up when the birds are done.
Peanuts are incredibly nutritionally beneficial to birds thanks to the high level of proteins and oils they contain. That said, some lower quality peanuts may already be deteriorating when you buy them, so always buy from a trusted supplier. When you get them home, make sure to store them in a dry, cool place to keep them good for as long as possible.
Since peanuts are larger, you must offer them in a mesh feeder. This stops the bird from being able to take a whole one which could be dangerous.
It might seem convenient to buy a birdseed mix from your local store however, these usually contain very few beneficial ingredients and are often made up from things like cereal. Moreover, you have to keep in mind that these seed mixes will also attract unwanted species as well as animals such as raccoons and rats, so it’s probably best to steer clear.
Nyjer seeds, or thistle seeds are much smaller than other types of seed and are great if you want to attract finches. The seeds must be offered in a special nyjer feeder to prevent them from falling out, and these feeders also have smaller openings which are perfect for small birds. You also won’t have problems with bully birds who will show no interest in these seeds.
Plenty of birds are ‘meat eaters’ and thrive on a diet of insects and bugs. You can serve mealworms in a special feeder, and you have options on how to do this. Some people prefer to offer live ones, whereas others prefer the roasted version.
Once you set up a mealworm feeder in your garden and the birds discover it, they’ll keep on coming back for more, so you’ll always have an abundance of wildlife in your backyard. Birds like robins and bluebirds will be particularly partial to this food.
Species like orioles, tanagers, and mockingbirds will love a serving of fruit, and there are many different types you can offer. Oranges cut into halves are great for your fruit feeders, and you can even add fruit jellies as a special treat.
Birds will also feed on a wide array of berries so be sure to include these. Don’t forget that grapes and raisins are also an excellent option. But you can use any fruit you have to hand and see what food brings in which birds.
You can buy ready-made suet cakes from grocery stores and other places. However, the problem with these is that they contain a whole host of different foods in one but most of these are not nutritionally beneficial to birds. For this reason, it’s far better to make your own suet feeder using suet and birdseed.
You will need to take four parts water and one part sugar to make sugar water for birds. It’s important to boil the mixture and allow it to cool first; you can then add it to a liquid bird feeder.
This type of food is super attractive to hummingbirds as well as orioles. But one thing to remember is not to add any food colorants but opt for a brightly colored feeder instead to keep it as healthy as possible for the birds. But also be prepared to keep refilling as your feathered friends will lap this up very quickly.
How to Make Hummingbird Feeder Nectar
If you’re looking to attract hummingbirds for their pollination or simply their beauty, then you could offer a lot of different foods. But the most effective is nectar. Now you can buy premade liquid nectar feeds, but it’s much more affordable to make it at home. Plus there is the added advantage of knowing exactly what has gone into it.
- Start by measuring out your sugar and water. It doesn’t matter how much you are going to make as long as you have one part sugar and four parts water.
- You will now need to boil the mixture for around one to two minutes.
- Before serving to the birds, make sure that you let it cool completely.
- Do not add any type of dye or colorant.
- If you have any leftover nectar feed, you can store this in the refrigerator.
Where to Place a Bird Feeder?
Choosing the right location for your bird feeder is of the utmost importance. You need to make sure that the birds feel safe and can feed in peace.
Away From Predators
Birds will not feed if they feel vulnerable which is why it is essential to place feeders well out of the way of predators such as cats. While the area should be sheltered, you should place the feeders no less than two meters from cover where predators could be hiding.
Away From Loud Noises
If you live near a busy road, try to place the feeders on the opposite side of the garden where the birds won’t be startled by loud noises.
In a Prime Viewing Spot
While you want the birds to feel safe and comfortable, you’ll still want to be able to watch them. For this reason, make sure you locate the feeders somewhere you can see them from your favorite viewing spot.
Make Them Easy To Find
You won’t attract any birds to your garden if they cannot see the feeders. Make sure that the birds have good visibility from the sky.
Consider the Species
Different species of bird prefer to feed in different locations. Think about the types of bird you are looking to attract and place the feeders accordingly. For example, if there are a lot of local ground feeding birds, be sure to place the feeders lower down.
What Type of Bird Food Should You Be Using in the Winter?
Most people assume that feeding birds is more of a summer activity but don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t offer food in the winter as well. As we discussed earlier on, suet, for example, should only ever be offered in winter as there is less risk of it spoiling in colder temperatures.
Birds will normally feed early in the day during winter so that they have energy, so make sure you leave food out first thing in the morning. And don’t forget to refill at the other end of the day; feeding twice daily in winter is essential. But if they’re going to make the most of that energy, they’ll need foods that boost it, so things like sunflower chips and peanuts work very well.
When it comes to changing the food, be sure to remove anything uneaten to prevent contamination, and always be sure to practice good hygiene and keep the feeders clean.
How to Keep Squirrels off a Bird Feeder?
Squirrels may become the bane of your life when it comes to bird feeding. Naturally, you will want to keep them away from the feeders, but they’re persistent creatures, so you might need to get a little inventive. Here are some effective ways to keep squirrels at bay.
A squirrel baffle is an umbrella-shaped piece of plastic or metal that sits over the top of the bird feeder. This prevents squirrels from being able to pounce from above. The surface of the baffle is very smooth, so even if the squirrel lands on it, it won’t be able to maintain a grip.
Squirrel Proof Feeders
There are lots of bird feeders that are designed with squirrels in mind and prevent them from getting to the food. Those with cages around are the most popular, and while birds can get in, squirrels cannot. There are also spring-loaded feeders that automatically close off when heavier weight is applied, such as that of a squirrel.
Install a Rope
By hanging a rope between two trees and suspending your feeders right in the middle, any hungry squirrels will have quite a bit of work to do before they’re rewarded with the food. In most cases, they’ll give up and look elsewhere before succeeding.
Heat It Up
Birds will have no adverse effects when they eat chili flakes, but squirrels will think twice before attacking your bird feeders again if you include a handful of chili flakes or chili powder. It won’t harm the squirrel, but it will deter them.
How to Clean a Bird Feeder?
It is super important to keep your bird feeders clean to avoid the spread of diseases from spoiled food. Moreover, some bird species are endangered and if they’re eating from contaminated feeders, this could lead to further decline.
There are many ways that you might clean your bird feeders but the most simple is as follows:
- Start by removing any uneaten food and any other debris that has accumulated. Get rid of this in the trash; you should never reuse leftover food because of the risks of contamination.
- Now soak your bird feeder in a solution of bleach and water. This will effectively kill germs.
- You can use a scrubbing brush to get off any stubborn marks or stuck on food.
- Make sure to fully rinse your bird feeder and allow it to dry completely before putting it back.
- Regularly clean your bird feeders even if there doesn’t appear to be any visible signs of disease in the local bird community. As they say, prevention is better than cure!