Just Getting Started
Basic Needs for the Beginner
Wooing beautiful backyard birds to your outdoor environment is as simple as offering them a reliable, high-quality food source, clean fresh water, and cozy places to shelter. Birds, like most wild animals, are survivalists and they’ll take advantage of anything that makes their lives easier – whether it’s in your yard or your neighbor’s. To entice them to your yard or garden, make sure to follow these helpful tips from the bird-feeding experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products:
A Variety of Food
Birds expend a lot of energy throughout the year migrating, mating, raising their young, and just plain trying to survive. Providing a variety of foods at the feeder is a good way to attract wild birds for your viewing pleasure and help out at the same time.
Offering a variety of seeds, suet, nuts, and fruits ensures they have plenty to eat as well as provides a diverse source of good nutrition. Of course something is better than nothing, so if you only want to put out a single feeder that works too. Just make sure you fill it with good quality black oil sunflower or a mostly sunflower blend.
A Water Source
Consider offering a bird bath filled with clean, fresh water so that your backyard birds have a place to drink and bathe. Ideally, your bird bath should be 1 to 2 inches deep so that birds can get in and out easily and quickly. Keep in mind during the summer, the water will evaporate quickly. So, you may need to check and refill your bird bath more often.
The sound of moving water is a great attraction for songbirds. If you don’t have a creek or pond nearby try adding a fountain mister or a water agitator to create action sounds and movement. This not only draws in the birds, but it will also help to prevent mosquito larvae from hatching in the bird bath.
Plenty of Shade and Cover
As a general rule, wild birds dislike hanging out in the open for long periods of time. Lack of cover makes it easier for predators to see and catch them. So, a backyard with some bushes and trees is always preferred over a complete lack of landscaping. It doesn’t have to be fancy, even just a few shrubs here and there will be enough to provide some protection.
In addition to shelter from predators, birds use bushes and trees for nesting, night time shelter, food, and protection from the elements. Weather is a great stressor for birds and landscaping that provides a windbreak or shade from the mid-day sun is always appreciated.
With lots of different types of food, fresh water, and a few places to shelter, you’ll be guaranteed a front row seat for watching and enjoying the birds at your feeder throughout the year.
Attract Birds by Feeding Habits
If you are looking to attract a specific bird or group of birds, it helps to know what they like to eat. One very high-level way to look at backyard bird feeding is to separate your beautiful songbirds into 3 basic groups: perch or cling feeders, ground feeders, and non-seed eaters.
Perch and Cling Feeders
This group comprises a large number of your backyard friends. They prefer to sit and perch or cling up high while they eat. Since most of them are looking mainly for sunflower, hanging feeders filled with sunflower or sunflower blends works great for them. These birds meticulously go through every seed – eating what they like and kicking out what they don’t for the ground feeders below.
Examples of common perch feeders: Cardinals, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Red Polls, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Titmice, Wrens, Jays, Bluebirds, Warblers and many more!
These birds don’t like to feed in the open. You will find them at the base of bushes or underneath feeders scratching around the leaves and pine straw. They favor white millet and cracked corn over sunflower, though if they find sunflower on the ground they won’t snub their noses at it.
Examples of common ground feeders: Towhees, Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Juncos, Mourning Doves, Quail, Cardinals, Flickers, Robins, Thrushes, White-crowned Sparrows, Brown Thrashers & Catbirds.
Non-seed eaters lack the correct type of beak to crack open seed shells. Instead of seed they prefer insects, suet, fruit, or nectar. This category can be a bit tricky as some traditionally non-seed eaters, like bluebirds and some other clever species, have adapted their feeding behaviors and beak limitations to take advantage of shelled seeds. These days it is not so unusual to see bluebirds covering a feeder filled with Sunflower Meats, just as often as one filled with suet and Dried Mealworms. This muddies the description, but certainly not the fun of feeding them.
Nonetheless, in general non-seed eaters love all the extra stuff you put out. Suet cakes or Suet Kibbles™, Dried Mealworms, fruit, and nectar are great to get those coveted cuties to visit your yard. Offer suet in suet cages or suet logs and the Suet Kibbles™, mealworms, and fruit in bowl or platform feeders. For hummingbirds, a good nectar feeder will do the trick nicely.
Examples of common non-seed eaters: Warblers, Bluebirds, Hummingbirds, Vireos, Phoebes, Waxwings, Tanagers & Kinglets.
Attract Birds by Feeder Type
Just like offering a variety of foods will attract a variety of birds, having more than one type of bird feeder guarantees that many different types of birds will visit your yard. Since every bird species has a preferred way to feed, it makes sense to provide at least a couple different types of feeders to increase the variety of species dining at your outdoor café.
Tube feeders are shaped just like the name – tubular. Usually they come with numerous openings, or ports, for perch feeding birds to feed. Due to the rather large size of the ports, they can dispense a wide variety of foods like Black Oil Sunflower, Safflower, Raw Peanuts, and Suet Kibbles™.
Tube feeders are the most common type of feeder because they are easy to fill, hang, or post mount. The length of the perches determines the bird species that will be able to use it. Most perches accommodate small to medium-sized songbirds. If you want to include larger birds like cardinals, robins, and jays then you need to add a seed tray to the bottom of the feeder.
Some birds just love to cling or hang while they feed, so having a mesh feeder out in the yard ensures you will get those birds to visit. Mesh feeders can be metal, fabric, or plastic depending on size and style. Metal mesh feeders are the most durable and critter resistant, while fabric and plastic version are usually pre-filled with seed and sold as single-use feeders.
The beauty of mesh feeders is the obvious lack of perches. Without perches, “nuisance” birds like grackles and starlings can’t take over these feeders and prevent more desirable species from feeding. Even better, mesh feeders are extremely versatile. They can hold just about any type of seed or feed. Sunflower, Sunflower Meats, Safflower, seed blends, Suet Kibbles™, Dried Mealworms, Raw Peanuts, cut-up suet cakes – all are perfect for a mesh feeder.
From a simple miniature table-like structure to more decorative designs with screen centers for drainage, all platform feeders have one thing in common – a single flat surface supported by 3-4 legs usually only a foot or so off the ground. As the name suggests, it provides a platform for large birds and cute critters to stay close to ground and feed.
Another easy-to-use feeder, you simply pour your feed onto the top of it and let nature take over. If your version does not have a screen bottom for water drainage, then you don’t want to put out a lot of seed at any one time. When seed gets wet it can mold if it is not allowed to dry out quickly.
Birds and animals that visit platform feeders: Flickers, Towhees, Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Juncos, Mourning Doves, Quail, Cardinals, Flickers, Robins, Thrushes, White-crowned Sparrows, Brown Thrashers, Catbirds, Nuthatches, Titmice, Squirrels, Chipmunks, Deer, Raccoons & Rabbits.
At Cole’s we are all about making bird feeding easy, so we love a good bowl feeder. This type of feeder is comprised of a bowl-like base and a dome top or cover. Usually, but not always, the top can be raised or lowered to restrict or allow large birds to use it. The dome also offers some protection from the elements.
Like mesh and platform feeders, bowl feeders work well with almost any type of seed of bird food. We especially like to use it for specialty treats like Suet Kibbles™, Dried Mealworms, bluebird crumbles, and Raw Peanuts.
Suet is a high energy food source derived from rendered animal or vegetable fat. As such it takes many forms, the most common of which is the suet cake. Suet cakes come in many flavors of mostly small square-shaped blocks of suet. Other forms of suet include tubs of lard-like suet, little crumbles or balls, seed and suet mixed together, and of course our famous Suet Kibbles™.
Suet feeders are just as varied. Suet cages, suet logs, suet houses, suet tubes, suet bases, etc. all provide a great way to offer suet. Some suets work well in tube and mesh feeders too. Expect to see a significantly greater variety of birds when you put out these feeders, as suet has a way of attracting many beautiful bird species that don’t typically visit a regular seed feeder.
Common backyard birds that crave suet: colorful Warblers, Bluebirds, Kinglets, Pileated Woodpeckers, Flickers, Chickadees, Titmice, Robins, Catbirds, Phoebes, Finches, Jays, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Downy Woodpeckers & Thrushes.
Want to attract hairy water buffalo to your backyard? Get a hummingbird feeder! No, you’re looking for hummingbirds of course. This type of feeder comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes, but no matter what it looks like, its purpose is the same – to attract the coveted hummingbird. Fill with simple sugar water nectar and you are ready to witness Mother Nature’s real life avian fairies in action.
All species of beautiful hummers prefer to feed from hummingbird feeders as well as the occasional water buffalo.