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Tips for Feeding Wild Birds

feeding wild birds

Tips for Feeding Wild Birds


The snow is falling and so are the temperatures! And feeding wild birds becomes a little more important this time of the year. It is NOT true that feeding our feathered friends makes them dependant on us; birds are opportunists and we are just giving them a little extra help in the lean months! Depending on your location, you may have year-round residents and migratory birds passing through your area.  It is helpful to identify your locals if you want to tailor their food or attract specific new birds to your space. My two favorite books are The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws (2007) and Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Ted Floyd (2008).

Birds also have trouble finding free-flowing water in these conditions. Be sure to give them a birdbath and if necessary, a good birdbath heater to keep the water open. This will often attract as many birds as the food. So much fun to watch them bathe! And No, they won’t get too cold!

Types of Feeders

Different birds prefer different kinds of feeders. I use the basic mixed food feeders, with a local blend for our local small birds. I also hang a suet feeder for my woodpeckers and sometimes set out a tray feeder for the doves and quail. Some of the many types of feeders include:

  • pole-mounted
  • hanging
  • platform or tray
  • sugar-water (hummingbirds)hanging bird feeder
  • cages (suet, block food)
  • nyjer (Thistle seed)
  • tube
  • hopper
  • windowsill
  • oriole (jelly, fruit)
  • squirrel proof
  • bluebird (mealworms)
  • peanut (blue jays)

Also you can make your own feeders, birds just aren’t that fussy. This makes for fun snow-day projects for the kids! Try smearing peanut butter on pine cones, or string fruit and berries and hang! Use your imagination!

Types of food

Most popular for feeding wild birds are the mixed blends. These blends generally entice the largest variety of year-round local birds. But once in a while I will see an unusual species, like meadowlarks or bi-colored blackbirds, when the snow is deep. Check with your local feed store as they will usually have a regionally tailored blend with little or no waste. Other, more specific foods include:

  • suet cakes, blocks and bars
  • fruit and nut blocks and barschickadee on sunflower
  • Sunflower seeds, shelled or unshelled
  • mealworms and insect treats
  • jelly
  • nectar
  • cracked corn
  • peanuts
  • nyjer, thistle seed

Natural Foods

I have landscaped my property myself, and kept the birds in mind while doing so. You don’t necessarily have to re-do your yard or garden: this can be as simple as adding a few new plants or shrubs and not dead-heading the flowers. Or you can allot a corner or other unused space just for the birds. I do not ever spray any insecticides, so the bugs both good and bad in my yard also nourish my feathered friends. In my area, the Sierra Nevada foothills, these are the most popular plants:

  • Sunflower
  • Purple Coneflowerbird in barberry shrub
  • Russian Sage
  • Barberry
  • Pyracantha
  • Salvias
  • Catnip
  • Agastache
  • Penstemon
  • Red-Hot Poker
  • Berries
  • Fruit trees
  • Native Grasses

While by far not an all-inclusive list, I hope these helpful tips for feeding wild birds will give you the spark to do more! Some of our bird species are in decline due to habitat loss and pesticide use, and birds are a vital part of our natural ecosystems. Birds belong in our yards and gardens!

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