Backyard Birding



This article was written and provided to Pet Guardian Angels of America by Olivia Williams of the “My Pet Needs That” website


5 Tips to Using a Backyard Bird Feeder

There are a growing number of households putting bird feeders in their backyards. These add
life to a landscape, bringing in wild birds of different species, and giving you the opportunity to
watch them in their full splendor. Bird feeders also provide sustenance for these winged
creatures especially during the winter months when food is not that easy to find. If you want to
be greeted by the melodic chirps of birds at any time of the day, then you’d also want to use a
backyard bird feeder in your home. Here are 5 ways to do just that.

1. Choose the right backyard bird feeder.

First in the order of business is choosing the right kind of backyard bird feeder. This actually
depends on the species of birds that you would like to attract into your backyard or the avian
species that are known to frequent your neighborhood. If you’re not sure about the species of
birds that are found in your area, you might want to consult with authoritative resources to give
you an idea.

If you want to attract cardinals and jays, a good bet are tray or ground feeders. Titmice,
northern cardinals, and pigeons love platform bird feeders while red-winged blackbirds and
chickadees prefer to feed on hoppers. Certain species of sparrows as well as titmice and finches
can settle on window feeders while redpolls, pine siskins, and house finches do so well with
tube feeders. Thistle feeders are great for redpolls, goldfinches, and house finches while suet
feeders are good for attracting woodpeckers, nuthatches, bluebirds, and wrens, among other
bird species. Of course, if you want to attract hummingbirds, then you need to pick a
hummingbird backyard bird feeder.

2. Set up your backyard bird feeder.

Choosing the right backyard bird feeder is one thing. Learning to set it up properly is another. If
you have a backyard bird feeder that needs to be hung, make sure to hang it in an area that is
protected both from the cold winter winds and from predators. Evergreens are preferred since
they provide excellent cover for your bird feeder.

Your backyard bird feeder should also have a minimum clearance of 10 feet from the sides so
predators will not be able to gain access to the bird feeder by jumping from roofs or even tree
branches. Ideally, it should be at least 30 feet from windows to help prevent bird strikes. The
bottom of the bird feeder should be at least 5 to 8 feet from the ground surface so other
animals won’t get access to them. If you’re setting up multiple feeders make sure they are
adequately spaced. Also, it is wise to put them at different heights, depending on the species of
birds you wish to attract.

It is best to set up your backyard bird feeders in late winter or even in early spring as it is often
difficult to forage for food during these times. However, for thistle feeders, it is best to keep
these up all-year round.

3. Stock your backyard bird feeder with appropriate bird feed.

There are plenty of bird feeds to choose from, although sunflower seeds generally attract
almost all species of birds. If you have to choose sunflower seeds, you can go for the black-oil
variety since this has one of the highest meat-to-shell ratios, meaning you’re giving these wild
birds more nutrients than the shell. Also, black-oil sunflower seeds are known to have thinner
shells, making them easier to crack open even by small birds. These are rich in fat, too which
should help keep your feathered visitors well-protected during the winter.

Know that different bird species have different food preferences. Ground feeders like doves love
red milo or even white millet while woodpeckers have a knack for suet. Goldfinches go for
thistle or nyjer while hummingbirds will always go for nectar.

Alternatively, you can make your own smorgasbord bird feed. Peanuts, cracked corn, apple
pieces, peanut butter, oranges, bread crumbs, and millet can be given as treats for these
feathered creatures. Of course, you can go for seed mixes as well. Keep in mind that this can be
quite messy as some birds will only pick the seeds they want and throw away those they dislike.

4. Maintain the integrity of your bird feeder.

Just because you’re feeding wild birds doesn’t mean you can already disregard the cleanliness of
your backyard bird feeders. Birds can inadvertently carry with them dirt and debris that can
contaminate their food. As such it is important to discard the contents of your bird feeder and
to clean this thoroughly at least once every week. This is especially true during the peak season
when you’ve got throngs of flying visitors every day. However, during the off-peak season,
cleaning your bird feeder at least twice a month should be enough.

In cleaning the bird feeder, you can use diluted bleach to help sanitize the surfaces. The ideal
ratio of bleach to water is 1:9. As much as possible, don’t use detergent or even soap as this can
be particularly toxic to avian species. Make sure to rinse the bird feeder very well and to dry it
completely before stocking it up with the correct bird feed.

5. Protect your backyard bird feeder from other animals.

The issue with backyard bird feeders is that you’re not only attracting your favorite wild birds;
you’re also inviting other animals such as squirrels, nuisance birds, insects, rodents, and even
predatory birds like hawks.

Adjusting your backyard bird feeders is often necessary to keep out nuisance birds like crows
and starlings, unless they’re the ones you want to attract in the first place. Short-perched
feeders will usually be ideal as larger birds won’t have space upon which to stand. Avoiding
open-air platform feeders should also help dissuade larger birds.

If there is a hawk patrolling the skies, you may want to take down your feeder first until the
predator leaves. You can also use squirrel baffles or purchase bird feeders that come with
squirrel- and rodent-proofing mechanisms. If your feeder is frequently visited by insects, you
may want to relocate it to another part of your garden. Also, if you have a cat in the household,
make sure to keep it inside.

These are the ways in which you can use a backyard bird feeder. Mastering these fundamentals
should help you see more feathered friends flocking to your backyard.

Olivia Williams is mum of 2 and a true animal lover with 3 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot called Charlie. Heading up the content for My Pet Needs That amongst a busy family schedule, her goal is to try help people all around the world become better pet owners.