I love bird watching and feeding birds in my backyard. My mom got me started when I was young. Some of my first memories are of sitting in my her bird garden with the sunflowers and standing at our back door watching the birds happily avail themselves of the smorgasbord Mom provided. Now, I’ve done the same thing with my kids. I’ve even taught my kids colors and simple counting while they watched our backyard birds.
The great thing about backyard bird feeding is that it’s really simple and can be done anywhere; even from a small deck or patio off an apartment or condo. You don’t need a huge backyard to bring the beauty and sounds of nature to your window.
Chances are, if you start feeding the birds, they will come. In fact, according to the National Audubon Society, over 100 North American bird species supplement their natural diets with birdseed, suet, fruit and nectar obtained from feeders.
Although winter is the most common time for backyard feeding, it’s also important to feed during the spring and fall migrations and through the summer when birds are nesting and raising their young.
Many beginning bird feeders are confused by the amount of seed offerings in the store. I know those decorative bags of seed are tempting, but it’s not that complicated. In fact, most of those bird seed mixes go to waste since there’s really only one seed that tempts most every bird – black oil sunflower seed. A simple feeder filled with black oil sunflower seed is the basis for feeding success. You can get the seed with the shells or without. If you’re feeding in a common area like an apartment, you may want to get the kind without shells so there’s no waste that falls to the ground.
Beyond basic black oil sunflower seed, you may want to think about offering a few alternatives for those who may not be attracted to the sunflower seed. I usually offer Nyjer thistle in a basic mesh bag for the finches. I also offer suet for the woodpeckers and nuthatches in the winter. This is actually great fuel for all the birds during the cold months; but make sure not to leave it out in warm weather or it will go rancid. And, don’t feel like you need to buy those expensive suet blends that come in block form; instead pick up some beef suet from the meat department. The birds love it, and nothing goes to waste. I also like to put out some fresh oranges, especially in the spring and summer, for the orioles and other citrus lovers. And, last but not least, try to give the birds a fresh water source if there’s not one nearby. This doesn’t have to be complicated, just make sure the water’s fresh daily and doesn’t freeze during the winter. FYI – There are heated water baths available.
Overall, it’s easy to attract birds to your abode. Once you do, you’ll be amazed at the different species you’ll see; especially as the species change with the seasons. Just remember to keep a pair of binoculars and a bird identification book handy, and you’ll be in for a treat.