4 Essential Bird Feeding Questions & Answers

With the spring season around the corner for much of the United States, many nature lovers are anticipating the return of wild birds to their backyards. Bird watching and bird feeding can be a fun hobby for people of all ages, and it’s a great way to bring wildlife right up to your back door. If you’re picking this hobby up for the first time, here are a few common questions and answers for spring birding success.  

1) What type of birds can I expect to see?
This relies somewhat on the region you live in and by the type of feeder and seed you use, but orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, warblers, swallows, and hummingbirds are some of the most popular spring birds. You also may see cardinals and other year-round birds stopping by your feeder as well.

Spring is the perfect time to start bird feeding outside your home. Birds are especially attracted to feeders in the spring because their food supply has been depleted over the winter and their natural food sources take time to bloom and produce nutrients for them.

2) So what kinds of food will bring birds in?
Just like in life, variety is the spice of bird feeding. Having a wide variety of food will attract a wider variety of species to your backyard.

Almost all types of seed will attract spring birds due to the scarcity of their natural food sources, but black oil and hulled sunflower seeds are universally loved. Nyjer and high-protein millet can also be good choices as spring goes on. Some seed mixes will also include calcium, which is important for the health and development for younger birds.

Fruit is another good option for spring birds, especially brightly colored species like orioles and tanagers. Putting fruit out on a platform feeder will attract those birds when fruit trees have yet to produce their first crop.

Suet is an option for cooler temperatures because its higher fat and overall calorie content can sustain birds whose food supply may be running low. As temperatures creep up into late spring, you may want to start offering no-melt versions of suet as well.

Nectar is a liquid food source ideal for hummingbirds. In its natural state, nectar is a simple combination of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Its high sugar concentration gives hummingbirds the energy they need to survive their active lifestyles – they need to eat more than their bodyweight in food every day! Most hummingbirds will return to places they’ve fed before, so getting nectar out as early as possible will help bring spring hummingbirds in.

Setting out fresh water may also attract more birds, even if they’re not hungry.

3) There are a ton of bird feeders on the shelf – how do I choose one?
This depends heavily on the food you choose. Some feeders require a certain type of seed to be most effective while others will welcome mixed seed blends. Suet will have specially designed suet cake holders, while nyjer thistle typically has its own feeders as well. Hummingbirds also have specific feeders because of their unique beaks and feeding needs. Many feeders accept mixed seeds, and come in varying sizes.

The best feeders provide ample space for birds to perch without being crowded, and many offer some squirrel protection.

4) Squirrels are eating my bird food and keeping my birds away! What should I do?
Squirrels are notorious bird food thieves and are incredibly skilled and creative at foiling just about every attempt to keep them away (seriously, a quick YouTube search for “squirrel bird feeder” brings up some amazing videos of squirrels defeating every attempt to keep them off a feeder).

One of the most common ways to prevent squirrels from getting at the bird food is a plastic dome called a baffle. When a squirrel tries to climb on or over the baffle, it will rotate and knock the squirrel down. For feeders hung from a vertical wire, a baffle on top of the feeder is often too sloped and slick for a squirrel to hang on. There are feeders with this built in, or you can make your own.  It’s also wise to keep feeders at least 8 feet from tree trunks or limbs that squirrels may jump from to get the food.

Other feeders specifically designed to deter squirrels are constantly developing new products as well.

Squirrels are also less attracted to certain kinds of seed mixes. Safflower seed and nyjer thistle aren’t usually on a squirrel’s menu, so using those types of seeds may help you avoid squirrel activity.

Many people eventually decide to give in to the squirrels’ persistence and instead give them a feeder of their own. A dedicated squirrel feeding spot should help keep them away from your bird food.  

Shop doitbest.com and your local independently owned Do it Best store for the best selection of bird feeding supplies. We feature trusted products from brands such as Stokes Select, C&S Products, Lyric, Perky Pet, Valley Splendor, and more!

(via stokesselect.com, birding.com, hummingbirds.net, and humanesociety.org)

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