If you’ve created your ideal garden and still feel it lacks something; the missing piece may be the lively sounds and songs of wild birds. Here are a few tips to attracting wild birds and encouraging them to return. Birdseed, wild bird mix and premium birdfood; the variety is enough to baffle any amateur backyard bird feeder. Here’s the inside scoop on filling your feeders and how seed type determines who you attract.
1. Types of birdseed – Buy Black Oil Sunflower Seed
This is the number one, all-time favorite among most species and preferred by researchers. Referred to as “Black Oil” this seed offers the most food value to wild birds. It is available with or without the hulls; if you don’t want to clean up after your guests, buy sunflower hearts. There is less waste and no mess.
2. Limit activity around feeders – Keep it Quiet.
Noise startles and warns wildlife of danger. Locate feeders away from shrubs, trees and out buildings. Wild birds of all kinds prefer to light on a nearby tree or structure to check out the area before actually landing on a feeder. After installing a new feeder, it may take as long as two weeks for traffic to pick up; unless you have other established feeders in your yard.
3. Fill Your Feeders Regularly – Wild Birds Are Creatures of Habit.
Once they find a food source, they will return; unless there’s nothing to find. Two or three return trips that net nothing will decrease the number of visitors to your feeders. Be consistent about the amount and type of food you offer.
4. Offer Fresh Seed – Use a Supplier Who Moves Product.
Grocery stores and big discount houses buy seed months in advance, stock their warehouses and eventually draw on the stock to supply their stores nationwide. By the time the seed reaches you, it’s so old it’s lost most of it’s nutritional value and flavor. A better source of seed is the local feedstore or tractor supply where prices are lower and merchandise is fresh. Online sources are springing up worldwide; so “froogle” for nearby sources.
5. Avoid Seed Mixes – They Attract RATS.
Wild bird mixed seed is a waste of money. It may seem like a good value for the price, but what they don’t tell you is birds know their seed. Watch as they sit and sort the seed before they eat it – flicking left and right until they find what they want. Larger birds like blue jays will sort through the mix, flicking the millet and safflower seeds to the ground to get to the black oil seeds. This makes a big mess and covers the ground with wasted seed – creating a good source of food for rodents of all types.
6. Offer a Clean Water Source – Buy a Heated BirdBath.
Birds depend on their feathers to protect them during winter. They spend hours preening and keeping themselves clean. The sound of dripping water does more to attract birds than anything else, even more than offering premium seed. When winter freezes natural water sources, offering a safe alternative will attract wild birds throughout the winter.
7. Offer Birds a Neat Treat – Make a Bread Log
Take a loaf of day old French Bread and use an apple corer to poke a few holes in it. Fill the holes with peanut butter, chunky or smooth. Use a piece of wire to hang it from a tree branch, or tie it to your feeder. If you don’t secure it, a wiley squirrel will make off with the whole loaf.
8. Offer Homemade Suet – A Better Alternative to Stale, Store Bought Suet
Suet is a high calorie wild bird food that attracts woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmouses. It helps them during stressful winter weather by providing the extra fuel they need to keep warm. The peanut treat and berry blocks sold in retail outlets suffer the same stocking problems as seed and should be avoided. Here’s an easy recipe to make your own suet at less than half the cost.
Homemade Suet Recipe:
Microwave on low in a small bowl until soft, then mix well: 1 CUP PURE LARD** and 1/2 Cup Peanut Butter (smooth)
Add and mix well: 1 and 1/2 CUP CORN MEAL, yellow or white but not self-rising. Add nuts, dried fruit such as raisens and currants, oats, and seed to make a crunchy suet. Refrigerate for easy handling.
NOTE: **PURE LARD (manteca sp.) is sold right next to the vegetable shortening, but you cannot make substitutions. Vegetable shortening contains fatty acids birds cannot digest, so never substitute: Always use PURE LARD.
Save time and trouble with a premium, hullless seed mix such as 3-D Products’ Nut & Berry or Nut & Krunch for suet making. Premium mixes include a multitude of goodies to add to homemade suet. Making suet that fills a particular size “suet cage” whether mounted on the side of your cedar feeder or self-hanging is as easy as buying disposable food containers that serve as molds after ingredients are mixed. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Simply warm the suet filled plastic container and unmold into plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to keep your hands clean while restocking your suet feeders. Here’s one last tip: just before winter turns to spring, start offering egg shells left over from peeling hard boiled eggs. Birds need the calcium to create the shells that protect their newborns. That’s why larger birds like blue jays will sometimes chip away at a buildings’ siding in spring.