At­tract­ing and feed­ing wild birds

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Sher­rie Ver­sluis

The hobby of at­tract­ing and feed­ing wild birds is the sec­ond big­gest hobby in all of North Amer­ica. Gar­den­ing is num­ber one but for many, the two go hand-in­hand. The joy of feed­ing wild birds has been shown to re­duce blood pres­sure, im­prove symp­toms of de­pres­sion, and pro­vide great plea­sure for those who are home­bound. The an­tics and be­hav­iour of birds is some­thing peo­ple of all ages can en­joy. To see an ar­ray of species through­out the year, hav­ing the right feed­ers with the right foods can make all the dif­fer­ence in what you at­tract.

Most peo­ple start with a Hop­per Feeder and a bag of wild bird mix. Un­for­tu­nately, these two items are the least func­tional of all. This feeder style is the tra­di­tional wood feeder with plexi-glass sides. The seed is filled through the roof and comes out the bot­tom into a trough where the birds perch and eat. Wild bird mixes are sold ev­ery­where from de­part­ment stores, gar­den­ing cen­tres, and even hard­ware stores. Sadly, there are no qual­ity con­trol sys­tems in place to en­sure what you are buy­ing is even ed­i­ble. The ma­jor­ity of in­gre­di­ents in these mixes are not eaten by any type of song­bird. For this rea­son, they will come to a feeder and throw the food ev­ery­where mak­ing a big mess. Hop­per feed­ers are per­fect for en­cour­ag­ing messes as the troughs make it easy for birds to shovel the seed onto the ground. They are toss­ing all this seed down be­cause they are dig­ging for some­thing to eat! Most mixes con­sist of wheat, corn, oats, bar­ley, and a small amount of mil­let and sun­flow­ers. This is a fine mix if you are feed­ing geese, tur­keys, or ducks but not songbirds. Once all the seed has been spilled onto the ground, it will re­main there un­til it sprouts into the finest gar­den you never in­tended to grow or, you at­tract some furry friends rather than feath­ered.

These seed mixes not only con­tain ined­i­ble foods but, even the qual­ity of them is ques­tion­able. Of­ten these seeds have not been ap­proved for hu­man con­sump­tion so they are bagged and sold as wildlife feed. No won­der the birds throw it to the ground! Another prob­lem with mixes is the po­ten­tial of at­tract­ing House spar­rows. They live in large flocks and when they de­scend on a feeder all other birds will be chased away. House spar­rows will peck at other birds and even pull feath­ers to en­sure they rule the roost.

To try and con­trol the un­de­sir­able be­hav­iour of House spar­rows, con­sider fill­ing one bird feeder, any style of feeder will do, with pure white mil­let. This is their favourite food and wher­ever it is, the ma­jor­ity of the spar­rows

will be there. This is al­most like a 'bait' to keep them from other feed­ers. Make sure it is as far as pos­si­ble from other feed­ers. Then, closer to your house where your best view­ing spot is, put out another feeder with black oil sun­flower seed. This is the most de­sired seed by al­most all songbirds and will at­tract the widest va­ri­ety of birds through­out the year. A favourite style of feeder for this food is called a Tube feeder and of­ten comes with a tray at­tached to the bot­tom to keep the ground clean and to en­cour­age all sizes of birds like Blue jays.

Suet feed­ers are ex­cel­lent at­trac­tions for wood­peck­ers, chick­adees, and nuthatches and the sum­mer ver­sion of this food can at­tract even more species like ori­oles and war­blers. Be wary as many suet cakes are filled with the wild bird mix de­scribed ear­lier and will not be suc­cess­ful. Choose ones filled with nuts, fruit, or in­sects.

Ny­jer feed­ers are a great way to at­tract colour­ful finches es­pe­cially the Amer­i­can goldfinch found through­out the sum­mer sea­son. Ny­jer seed is very tiny and re­quires a spe­cial feeder or it will just spill out or blow away. Other finches like Red polls will visit this feeder in win­ter.

Plat­form feed­ers are a great way to ac­com­mo­date larger species like Blue jays, Mourn­ing Doves, North­ern Car­di­nals, and Gros­beaks. These open con­cept feed­ers are a nice way to of­fer a va­ri­ety of foods by plac­ing a hand­ful of each like, black oil and striped sun­flower seed, and peanuts.

There are many styles of spe­cialty feed­ers to of­fer spe­cific foods like peanuts in and out of the shell, meal­worms, and com­pressed seed cakes. For the spring and sum­mer sea­son there are ori­ole feed­ers to of­fer or­anges, grape jelly, or nec­tar and we can't for­get about hum­ming­birds!

Any time is a great time to start feed­ing wild birds and the re­wards are plen­ti­ful. You can fill your yard with colours and mu­sic that only na­ture can of­fer in such a beautiful way. Us­ing the right prod­ucts will en­sure you and the birds are happy as a lark! Happy bird­ing to you.

Sher­rie Ver­sluis is the owner of The Pre­ferred Perch Wild Bird Spe­cialty & Gift Store.


Plat­form feed­ers will ac­com­mo­date larger birds.

Store bought mixes like this usu­ally end up thrown out of the feed­ers.

Songbirds are drawn to peanuts and black sun­flower seeds.

Feed hum­ming­birds wa­ter and sugar; they do not need dyed mixes.

Wood­peck­ers are drawn to suet.

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