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Spring bird feeding: Helping birds during a critical time

This guest post comes to us from Elaine Cole, owner of Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co., based in Kennesaw, Georgia. Enjoy!

Love Is In the Air – and It’s Very Loud!

I have a serious love/hate relationship with spring. I love the bright green foliage, pretty colored flowers blooming after a long dreary winter, and of course the warmer weather. I look forward to the arrival of my garden catalog and indulge in the idea that this spring I will actually plant the beautiful garden depicted in said catalog. I feel a wonderful sense of hope and new beginnings.

Birds chirping prettily, light winds tickling newly budded trees, the subtle trickle of the creek filling up after a good spring rain – yes, the sounds of spring soothe me. Except for one….

Plunk! Plunk! Plunk! What the heck was that?! I run through the house looking for burglars breaking in only to realize it is a very determined male suitor fighting off his imaginary rival. You have almost certainly experienced this annual ritual: Male birds see their reflection in a window or car mirror and go berserk trying to defend their territory from themselves. In the past I have tried everything to prevent this loud cacophony, without any lasting success.

So now I just exhale and resign myself to a few hours of annoying plunks and grumpily accept that I will have some extra window cleaning and car washing to do before long.


A pair of Northern Cardinals engage in courtship feeding. Photo courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co.


Eventually the suitor takes a break and I settle down to read my newly arrived garden catalog without interruption – or so I think. A rapid fire metallic banging soon echoes throughout my house, and once again I’m up searching for this new source of annoyance. Of course! It’s a woodpecker on my chimney cap drumming out a love letter to all available females in the area. “Hello ladies! It’s spring and if you’re looking for a good provider with killer rhythm and an inexhaustible determination to beg for a mate, then here I am!”

Fortunately for my sanity, there is one aspect of springtime mating rituals that I actually look forward to – courtship feeding. I admit I am a closet romantic, so watching a male offer a delicious sunflower seed to his mate as proof of his undying love just makes me sigh (in a good way this time). Realistically I know he is simply demonstrating his ability to provide, but please let me have my fantasies! Not only do I find the gesture endearing, I believe it to be an absolutely genius adaptation of nature. I mean seriously, what girl is going to spurn a man that brings her good food?

So, I say help a fellow out and make sure he has plenty of ammunition in his “wooing” arsenal. Not that my motives are purely altruistic. Let’s face it, the more time he spends gathering food for his honey, the less time he has for messing up my windows and playing drums on my house.


A Blue Jay grabs a peanut. Photo courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co.

You might think that all these newly formed bird couples can forage just fine on their own right now. With all the new growth and pleasant temperatures, surely the birds have plenty to eat, right? Surprisingly, just the opposite is true. In our minds there are plenty of berries and insects because we see so much new foliage; but in reality, the availability of natural food for wild birds doesn’t really peak until late summer and early fall. Right now, they are hard-pressed to find steady food sources. Combine that with their incessant drive to mate and defend territories, and wild birds actually need as much help now as in winter.

Personally, I like to mix dried mealworms (just as nutritious as live mealworms but without the “ick” factor) and suet kibbles, then offer it up in a mesh or bowl feeder. Without question it is the most popular feeder in my backyard. It provides an easy meal high in needed protein and fat. Every egg-laying female knows the value of a good mealworm, and high-fat suet kibbles make for a lovely dessert.

Another good option in the spring is fresh fruit. Outside temperatures are not yet high enough to cause rapid spoilage, and it’s a great source of easy nutrition. Oranges, grape halves, and even banana slices are all appreciated this time of year. If fresh is not convenient, then go with a high-quality seed and fruit blend from your local nursery or hardware store. Look for soft fruits that wild birds would normally eat like apples, cranberries, raisins, and currants. Adding protein-packed pecans and nuts to any blend is always a good idea regardless of the time of year.

Of course, all that baby-bird-making preparation works up a mighty thirst, so don’t forget a clean water source. Nothing goes better with courtship feeding than a nice cold libation. Hopefully by helping wild birds survive their springtime needs, you’ll eventually get a chance to enjoy it yourself – without ear plugs! — Elaine Cole

Elaine Cole is the owner of Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co., based in Kennesaw, Georgia. She also wrote for us about feeding birds in winter


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Editors’ Choice: Cole’s Wild Bird Feed

Here at Birds & Blooms, we are very careful about recommending or endorsing products. If we’re going to promote something, we want to make sure that we’ve tested it and that we love it. With that said, I’m proud to share with you our new Editors’ Choice program, along with the first brand to earn these top honors. Cole’s Wild Bird Feed is a family-owned company that started with quality seed mixes. Soon, they expanded to include suet, feeders and even a new hummingbird feeder that just hit the market this spring.


Goldfinch eating Cole’s Nutberry Suet

Feed The Birds In Your Summer Garden

Wild backyard birds live demanding lives. During the warm months of the year, they perform a variety of tasks critical to their survival, all while recovering from the fatigue and stress of their long migration north. “Birds are constantly on the move,” says Elaine Cole, president and owner of Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co.


A tube feeder is always a popular attraction for smaller birds, including this flock of female American goldfinches.

Summer Bird-Feeding Tips: Keep Seeds Away From Squirrels

Summer is a great time to enjoy the diversity of birds in your area by revving up your bird feeding station. Not only will the resident birds comes calling, but you will also attract a varied flock of young birds once they fledge as well as neotropical migrants that are nowhere to be seen in fall or winter. The wild bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products Co. offer up essential summertime feeding tips when natural seed supplies are at their lowest.