Getting Started with Backyard Birding
Bird feeding is one of the fastest growing past times in the United States. It provides you with a great opportunity to see birds up close while enjoying their songs and behavior. Getting started with bird feeding is very easy to do! The following information will have you on your way to attracting a variety of birds in no time.
When to Feed the Birds:
Year-round feeding is encouraged. During the Fall and Winter months, especially in cold climates, natural sources of food are difficult to find. During the Spring and Summer months, birds need extra food for nesting, breeding and raising their young.
Types of Feeders:
Tube Feeders: A cylinder made of plastic with multiple feeding ports and perches. The size of the ports will determine which seed you can use. Tiny ports are for thistle seed and large ports are for wild bird or sunflower seed. These feeders generally attract smaller birds such as Chickadees, Wrens, Sparrows, Nuthatches, Titmice and Finches.
Hoppers: Larger feeders that can come in different designs and shapes. Hoppers can hold large amounts of seeds, nuts and fruits. Hopper feeders attract both large and small birds, such as Blue Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers and Grosbeaks, along with the smaller species such as Chickadees, Wrens, Sparrows and Finches. Hoppers can be pole-mounted or hung from a hook or tree branch.
Screened Feeders: A cylinder feeder made of wire mesh screen. Used for peanut and sunflower seeds. These feeders will attract Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Chickadees and Cardinals.
Suet Feeders: A wire cage that holds a suet cake. Suet is a high energy food that attracts Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Starlings and many more. These can be hung on a hook or from a tree branch.
Bird Food Types by Feeder:
Mixed Bird Seeds: Attracts all types of Songbirds. Can be used in Tube Feeders and Hoppers.
Black Oil Sunflower: Preferred by Nuthatches, Finches, Chickadees, Cardinals, Grosbeaks and more. Can be used in Tube Feeders, Screened Feeders and Hoppers.
Striped Sunflower: Enjoyed by all seed eating birds. For use in Tube Feeders, Screened Feeders and Hoppers.
Safflower: For Cardinals and many other songbirds. Can be used in Tube Feeders, Screened Feeders and Hoppers.
Fruit Mixes: Great for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Jays, Nuthatches, Chickadees and more. Use with Large hole Tube Feeders and Hoppers.
Peanut: Attracts Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Blue Jays and more. Best used in Screened Feeders and Hoppers.
Millet: Enjoyed by Juncos, Indigo Buntings, and Mourning Doves. Can be used in Tube Feeders and Hoppers.
Thistle “Nyjer”: A favorite of Goldfinches, House Finches & Pine Siskins. Used in Tube Feeders with small ports.
Suet Cakes: Enjoyed by Woodpeckers, Wrens, Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Titmice. Used in Suet Feeders.
Find out which types of birds frequent your area and choose your feeders and seed according to the type of local bird you would like to attract. When putting a feeder in your yard for the first time, be patient. It may take a week or more for birds to find your feeders. Birds may also be slow to try a new feeder and some are finicky about the type of food they prefer.
Birdfeeder Care and Maintenance
Filling Your Feeder:
All birdfeeders need to be filled on a regular basis. Most feeders can be filled through a lift-off roof or openings in the roof. The North States Feeder Filler Scoop is perfect for filling a variety of feeders; it works as a scoop and/or a funnel. Use the hand-held scoop for filling large feeders and the funnel for smaller feeders. The Feeder Filler Scoop is able to hold approximately 4 cups of seed.
Cleaning Your Feeder:
Birdfeeders should also be cleaned regularly – from as often as each time the feeder is filled up to every two weeks or so. Tube and hopper feeders should be washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water and rinsed out. Dry thoroughly before refilling.
To protect your feeder from pesky squirrels, try the North States Two-Way Squirrel Baffle. It can be used as a hanging baffle or on a pole. The 15.75 inch free swinging shaped baffle is made of durable molded plastic and includes all you’ll need for easy installation.
Tips to Keep Your Birds Happy
- Offer a variety of feeders and food types
- Choose the correct seed for the type of birds in your area
- Always feed fresh seed
- Keep feeders clean. Regular cleaning will prevent seed from spoiling and spreading disease
- Provide a water source
- Provide a natural habitat with native plants
- Place feeders near natural cover such as trees and shrubs
- Keep feeders out of reach from cats or other predators
- Avoid using pesticides near feeders
- Avoid window collisions by placing feeders at least 3 feet away from windows
There are Three Basic Types of Birdhouses:
Bluebird Houses: The shape and size are very important. The location of the entrance of the hole and the size of the hole is critical. There should be no perch. Suitable nesting boxes when properly located are usually eagerly accepted by any bluebirds in the area. Bluebird houses should be set out by February 15th.
Choosing the perfect location: Bluebird houses are most often put up on posts or trees in the open but close to the cover of shrubs and trees, as they will not nest in the woods and rarely in the deep shade. Ideal locations are pastures, fields, open waste lands, large lawns, cemeteries and golf courses. The bluebird house should face an open area with a tree, large shrub, or fence from 25 to 100 feet in front of the house. The young birds then have a good chance of reaching this on their first flight. The house should face south or southeast. When mounting more than one house, space houses 100 yards apart and leave a screen of shrubs or trees between the houses if possible.
Mounting: If using a post, it is preferred to use a smooth metal post rather than a wooden post since it offers protection against predators such as cats, raccoons, and snakes. When predators are not a problem, bluebird houses may be mounted on fence posts or on trunks of isolated trees (never among branches). If posts of pasture fences are used, the house should be on the side away from the animals or placed high enough so the animals will not use them as scratchers.
Bluebird houses should be mounted at a height of 5 to 6 feet, measured from the ground to the floor of the house.
Wren House: These are small nest houses that are suited for wrens and other small birds. There should be no perch. It is recommended to put up this house in early spring so curious wrens can investigate the structure as soon as they are ready to nest.
Choosing the perfect location: Wren houses can be attached near a porch or deck, since wrens don’t mind being close to humans, but it should be kept away from the busiest places. Nearby trees and shrubs will provide good shelter for the birds, but the house should not be buried in the deep foliage. The entrance should be angled away from the prevailing winds, as wrens are sensitive to cold, and place the house where it can get some sunlit warmth in the early morning and shade during the warmest part of the day.
Mounting: Wren houses should be positioned 4 to 10 feet above the ground, ideally attached to a wall, pole, or post for stability, but some wrens don’t mind hanging or swaying from a tree branch.
Nest Boxes: These houses attract various types of birds. Entry holes need to be large enough to accommodate larger birds. Make sure you place your boxes well before the breeding season begins. In the south, place your nest box by February; in the northern regions, place your nest boxes by mid to late March.
Choosing the perfect location: Before placing your box, research habitat, nest height and direction preferences for the species you desire to attract. Many birds will reject boxes that face due west, as the box may stay too hot.
Mounting: The nesting box can be mounted on a pole or a tree. Make sure the box is secure enough to withstand severe weather. You will need to research the species you are trying to attract to your nesting house to know the mounting height suggestions, as this changes based on the different bird species.
Tips and Tricks for all Bird Houses
- Avoid using pesticide or herbicides near bird houses
- Put all bird houses in areas not accessible to cats and predators
- Clean bird houses at the end of the nesting season. Remove all nesting contents, clean with mild solution of 90% water and 10% household chlorine bleach
- Offer nesting materials. Hang a mesh bag or unused suet feeder with short lengths of yarn or string, clothes dryer lint, or animal fur
Bat houses benefit you, your family, communities, gardeners, farmers and the whole ecosystem.
Bat houses give bats a home and in turn, they will eat thousands of insects. An individual bat can eat thousands of insects in just one night.
Bat populations have decreased significantly and bat houses can help provide a secure habitat.
Bat houses give bats an alternative to our house, thus reducing the chance of human to bat contact.
Bats are helpful, not dangerous animals. Less than 1% of bats have rabies.
Bat houses can be installed at any time of the year, but will most likely be used during the first summer if installed before the bats return in the spring.
Choosing the perfect location: Choose a sunny location on the East or South facing side of your house. Bat houses work best with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Bat houses should not be lit by bright lights. Do not install your bat house above doors or windows if mounting to your house. Bats may find a bat house more quickly if they are located along water edges or forests. They prefer to have water, such as a pond or stream, within a mile of their house (a pool or bird bath works as well).
Mounting: Bat houses can be mounted on your house or on a wooden or steel pole. All bat houses should be mounted at least 10 feet above ground, 12 to 20 feet is better. It should be placed at least 20 to 25 feet from the nearest tree branches, wires or potential perches.