Your backyard birds spend much of their day searching for food—bugs, worms, flower seeds, and berries. And our gardens are full of plants and insects that provide food for birds. Another way to attract birds is with bird feeders and water. Feeders let you have the fun of watching your backyard birds up close.
Garden food for birds
A healthy garden offers lots of good food for birds to dine upon. They eat insects that live on trees and shrubs. Sometimes you’ll see birds pecking the soil for earthworms and grubs. Your garden flowers produce seeds for birds. If you want to give birds a fall feast, try planting black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), gay feather (Liatris), tickseed (Coreopsis), coneflower (Echinacea), and cosmos. And don’t forget the sunflowers (Helianthus). Birds also like to eat small fruits like blueberries, cherries, and holly berries.
Seeds and holders
If you want to watch the birds closer to your window, consider hanging a bird feeder. You can buy a variety of seed holders in various shapes and sizes. Most common are hollow tubes with perches at openings along the side. There are also platform feeders for birds that would normally eat on the ground or do not like to perch. There are also many kinds of bird food. In general, mixtures with a variety of seeds are a good starting point. If you find birds are discarding or wasting a lot of the seeds, try another mix. Some mixes include nuts which are appreciated by many birds.
Locating feeders—easy to see and easy to move
Place feeders close enough to your window or porch where you can watch the birds without needing binoculars to identify the visitors. I have found a deck outside my living room to be a good place. It is also a good idea to locate feeders where you can easily reach them for cleaning and to add seeds. You’ll want to bring feeders in at night. Bears are very attracted to bird feeders and can easily steal or destroy them. Raccoons will also discover feeders left out over night. However, the most common nuisance at feeders is squirrels. They are clever, acrobatic, and able to find loopholes in any defense! Weight-sensitive feeders that shut off access to food when squirrels are on them have worked for me.
Water for birds
Having a water source also attracts birds. There are relatively shallow bird baths that you can attach to a deck rail as well as many other ornamental kinds in all shapes and sizes. Fountains with moving water are very appealing to birds. If you can afford a heated bird bath to provide water in winter, your bird friends will appreciate it.
Simple does it
As with many hobbies, begin bird watching and feeding with simple and inexpensive feeders and seed supplies. Later, you can always add new and different types of feeders that will attract a wider variety of birds for you and your family to enjoy.
Article written by Judy Deutsch, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.