Bird feeders are an important element in bird gardening. They serve to supplement the most basic need of birds – food – in addition to the bird friendly trees plants and groundcovers we select for the garden.
Using bird feeders consistently will attract more birds, period. Birds are social creatures and are on the lookout for where other birds are hanging out and feeding. So in addition to the birds that use the feeders, other birds, even those who do not partake of the seeds, are drawn to the garden to see what all the fuss is about. Most bird friendly plants in the garden attract fruit-eating birds…very few plants produce enough seed to satisfy most seed-eating birds. Therefore bird feeders will supplement the fruiting plants with the seeds most birds like.
The most popular birdseed is the sunflower seed. Sunflower seeds can be purchased with the hulls on or removed. Buying hulled sunflower seeds is recommended, since it is more concentrated and less bags need to be purchased, and because they are l
ess messy. The bird eats the entire seed and does not leave the hulls on the ground.
Mixed seed (which may or may not include sunflower seed) is usually appealing to birds that feed on the ground, such as doves and sparrows. The mixture may include peanut bits, safflower seeds, cracked corn and red or white millet. Thistle seed is a small black seed attractive to finches.
Where to place bird feeders? We always suggest placing bird feeders where we can watch the birds! There is great joy being able to see them as we go about our lives. We love seeing them from the kitchen window, as we sit at the dining room table, or as we relax on the front porch. We also try to locate the feeders near trees or large shrubs, so the birds have a retreat to go to if something scares them, or if they need a rest. After all, shelter is one of the basic needs of birds.
When to feed the birds? All the time! Different birds appear in different seasons, and even migratory birds will stop by for a meal on their journey. And if we neglect to keep the feeders full, or if we go on vacation for a couple weeks, it’s OK. The birds are wild creatures and will find insects or other sources of food on their own until their feeder is replenished.
We suggest cleaning the feeders and the area beneath them every few months or so. The feeder will look better and be safer for the birds. And the ground underneath bird feeders can become unsightly and messy if not cleaned on occasion.
So to review, bird feeders are a nice supplement to bird friendly plants in the garden. While most plantings attract fruit-eating birds, feeders attract seed eating birds. Be mindful of which kinds of birds visit your garden, which types of seeds they seem to prefer, and adjust accordingly. Feed all year long, clean the feeders occasionally, and enjoy the show! And kids love birds too!