Bird feeding is helpful and fun
Feeding wild birds can help them get through the stressful winter cold and provide needed nutrition when ice covers most of their natural food.
Some people feed birds during the harshest weather. Others enjoy it as a hobby. If your feeder goes empty, birds will not starve.
“Most birds move to food sources, so if you feed them just during winter, it does not confuse or bother them,” said Karen Neill, of the N. C. Cooperative Extension office in Guilford County.
Mixed seed blends are good for most wild birds. Experienced bird watchers know the feed you offer depends on the birds you’d like to help or observe. It is a good idea to have a variety of feeders and feeds and water available, Neill said.
“You should buy your feeds carefully and buy in bulk to save money,” Neill said. “Some bags can have bad seeds. And you can make your own feeds too.”
Sunflower Seeds: “Oil seeds” are preferred by experts and are attractive to cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and finches. Using tube hanging feeders or platform feeders works well for these species.
Millets: Work best for birds that feed on the ground, such as juncos, towhees and some species of sparrows.
Suet: Placed in wire baskets, this feed is attractive to woodpeckers. Melted fat is a good base for a homemade suet that can include fruit pieces and nuts.
“Making this can be a project for kids,” Neill said.
Thistle Feeder: For goldfinches, house finches and purple finches.
Fruit: Mockingbirds, cat birds, robins and jays like raisins and chopped fruit, especially apples. Use a flat tray for feeding.
“There will always be competition with squirrels,” Neill said. “You might want to create a feeding area for them with peanuts or corn. Keep the bird feeders far enough away so that squirrels can’t jump to get there.”
Feeding birds in winter offers other opportunities.
“Get a book to help with feeding and learning about the birds you see,” Neill said.
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Shape: You can attract certain bird species by the type of feeders you use.
Predators: To protect against squirrels, use metal feeders designed to close off the food source when an animal heavier than a bird jumps on the feeder. On pole feeders, use a “squirrel baffle” on the pole below the feeder.