by Kris Davis, Ecosystem Manager
Are you planning on setting up a bird feeding station this winter? There are several factors that go into successfully feeding backyard birds including feeder type, seed and feeder placement.
House style or “Hopper” feeders will attract a wide variety of feeder birds and are well protected from the elements. Make sure that you only put enough seed in the hopper to last a day or two. Old seed can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus which causes sickness and disease in birds.
Tube feeders can be the best for keeping seed clean and dry while also excluding some of the larger bully species such as blue jays and grackles. Tube feeders with metal feeding ports offer some resistance to squirrels. Tube feeders can also be purchased specifically for Niger thistle, a favorite among goldfinches.
To attract woodpeckers to your backyard, hang a suet feeder from a branch or Hopper feeder. In lieu of a suet feeder, you can also drill holes into a log and spoon in suet or peanut butter or simply smear it on a nearby tree.
Now that you have the proper feeder, what seed should you use? Certainly avoid “wild bird seed mixes” which contain filler seeds that most birds will NOT eat. Black-oil sunflower seed is the most widely preferred seed among feeder birds. Other seeds that are good to use include safflower, white proso millet, striped sunflower seed, cracked corn and peanuts. Try to avoid oats, wheat, red proso millet, milo, canary seed, flax seed and canola seed.
Placement is just as important as having the right feeder and seed. Placing your feeders in natural or less disturbed areas will usually yield good results. Sunny, open areas will give birds a good view of your feeders and help them watch for predators. Keeping feeders 10-12 feet from trees or a brush pile will help birds feel safe and comfortable. Lastly, spread your feeders out from each other. Having all of your feeders within a small area can result in crowding, aggression and the spread of disease among birds.
So, once you have the right feeder, seed, placement for your feeding area and just a little patience, you should start seeing some of our feathered friends in no time at all!