how to attract birds in florida

The earliest written account of bird feeding in the United States dates back to 1845, when Henry David Thoreau reported feeding birds at Walden Pond. The first commercially-made bird feeder was designed for hummingbirds and went on the market in 1926. Today, more than 50 million Americans put out a billion pounds of bird food each year.

In most cases, native plants are best-suited to provide food for birds and require little maintenance. One of the most effective ways to attract birds to your backyard is to use native plantings to provide the natural habitats that have supported them for thousands of years. However, bird feeders can be used to supplement the food provided by native plantings. They also provide a way to observe birds at close range.

Before placing bird feeders in your backyard, consider the bird species you would like to attract. Different birds are attracted to different bird feeders and foods. The following suggestions are useful guidelines, but it is best to experiment. Try a variety of feeders and foods located in different spots around your yard.

A wide range of different bird feeders is available. Some are non-selective and used by a variety of birds; others are more selective, attracting only one or two specific species (Table 1). If you are interested in attracting a wide diversity of birds to your yard, consider installing at least two of the different types of feeders discussed below.

The type of food you stock in your feeder determines which birds you will attract. Some birds like seeds, fruit, or insects, others suet, and a small number nectar. A vast number of companies produce bird seed mixes that vary in content, cost, and quality. Although common, bird seed mixes are not usually the best choice. Seed mixes frequently contain more unwanted food, such as milo, oats, and red proso millet, than desirable food, such as sunflower. When these mixes are used, birds will empty your feeder quickly eating only the seeds they like and scattering the rest on the ground. Usually a single seed or making your own seed mix is preferable. When purchasing seed for birds, do not buy any coated with a red or pink dye. Seeds intended for planting are often treated with a fungicide called capstan and are marked with the red dye as a warning. Capstan is extremely toxic to birds.

There are a range of other bird foods you can try. Bluebirds and orioles like mealworms. These birds, along with house finches and woodpeckers, also like fruits such as apples, oranges, peaches, berries, and bananas. Be creative, try a variety of foods, and see what birds you can coax into visiting your yard.

When deciding where to locate your feeders, there are a number of things you will need to consider. You will, of course, want to make sure you have a good view of the feeder from where you intend to watch visiting birds. You should think about the different birds that will visit the feeders and their feeding styles. Some birds feed on the ground and others at shrub and tree height. To minimize crowding and attract the greatest diversity of species, provide low platform feeders for ground feeding birds, and hopper, tube, niger, suet, and raised platform feeders at different heights for shrub and treetop feeders.

If you have a small garden, where it is not possible to locate feeders away from your house, birds may frequently strike your windows. In such situations, research suggests it is preferable to locate feeders closer rather than farther away from windows, within 3m of a window is considered best. Most birds collide with windows as they leave a feeder. Placing feeders close to your windows will prevent visiting birds from building up enough momentum to cause serious injury if they strike the window when they try to fly away. Mobiles, decals and other decorations hanging outside windows also help to prevent bird strikes.

Many birds using feeders like to have shrubs and trees nearby where they can perch or escape from aerial predators such as hawks. However, placing your feeders among or too close to shrubs and trees puts feathered visitors at increased risk from ground predators, particularly domestic cats. Locate feeders 10–15 feet from bushes to provide perching spots and a place to escape from aerial predators without giving domestic cats hiding places close enough for them to pounce on unsuspecting birds.

If you have the space, consider placing several feeding stations throughout your yard. This is effective for two reasons. First, some birds like to feed near vegetation and others out in the open. By placing a number of feeders in different places, you will draw a greater diversity of birds. Secondly, it will help prevent overly aggressive individuals that chase other birds from controlling access to all feeders.

It is essential to maintain a clean bird feeding environment in order to discourage disease. You should clean your feeders at least once every two to three weeks to ensure they do not accumulate moldy and decomposing seeds, bird droppings or other contaminants that can make birds sick. The heat and humidity of Florida are perfect conditions for mold growth. Therefore, during periods of warm or wet weather, it may be necessary to clean them more regularly. To clean glass, ceramic and plastic bird feeders (except hummingbird feeders) use a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts hot water), taking care to ensure they are completely dry before refilling. To clean wooden bird feeders use hot soapy water and a bristled brush.

You should change the sugar water in hummingbird feeders at least every 3 to 5 days to prevent deadly fermentation and mold growth. In hot weather or direct sunlight, the fermentation process speeds up. Under these conditions it may be necessary to change the sugar water more often. Hanging feeders in the shade can help slow the fermentation process. To clean hummingbird feeders, use hot water and a bottle brush. Unlike other feeders, hummingbird feeders should not be cleaned with bleach, soap, or any type of detergent to prevent contamination of the nectar when they are re-filled.

Clean the ground below your feeders regularly to prevent a build-up of hulls, uneaten seeds, and other waste. Moldy or spoiled food is unhealthy both for birds and outside pets, and bird food scattered on the ground can attract unwanted rodents.

Squirrels are a nuisance at many bird feeders. They become a real problem when they take over a feeder, scaring away birds and tossing seed around. Squirrels are extremely agile and any bird feeder hanging from a tree is likely to become a squirrel feeder. They also have strong teeth and can chew easily through plastic and wooden feeders to get at their contents. When selecting a feeder, look for one that has squirrel-proof features such as metal feeding ports and perching posts or that has a domed overhang to prevent squirrels from gaining access. You can also install your feeders on a pole with a baffle that prevents squirrels climbing up from the ground to access food. The pole, with attached feeders, should be located 10–15 feet away from tree trunks and overhanging limbs as squirrels are capable of jumping up to 10 feet. If you store your supply of bird food outside, it is best to keep it in a securely closed metal container. Squirrels can chew through containers made even from heavy plastic.

House cats kill hundreds of millions of birds annually in the United States. To help keep visiting birds safe, locate feeders away from areas of ambush cover, such as shrubs and brush, where cats can lie in wait to attack. A cats instinct to hunt is not related to hunger. Even a well-fed cat will hunt. Generally, putting a bell on your cats collar will not prevent it from capturing birds. If you are keen to convert your yard into a haven for feathered visitors, keep your cat indoors where it cannot hunt wildlife, preferably all the time, but at a minimum between sunrise and three hours after sunrise, when birds feed most heavily and congregate around bird feeders. Try providing inside cats with a sunny window seat so that they can bask and watch birds safely without harming them or coming to grief themselves from traffic, disease, and fights with other animals.

No birds visiting feeders?

When you first install feeders in your yard, it could take some time for the birds to discover the new food source and begin using the feeders. Please be patient. After putting up your feeder, try scattering some seeds on the ground to attract birds if they don’t come by after a couple of weeks. If the birds continue to avoid the feeder, it’s possible that they find it uncomfortable. In these circumstances, relocating feeders can be beneficial. Adding more native plants that are good for birds to eat to your garden and landscaping can also attract birds, who will then use your feeders. Seek guidance from your nearby UF/IFAS Extension office regarding native plants that are popular with birds.

Cats Indoors! Campaign. American Bird Conservancy. https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/

National Bird-Feeding Society. The Dynamics of Bird Feeding. http://www.birdfeeding.org.

Schaefer, J. , and C. N. Huegel. (2001). Floridas Hummingbirds. UW059. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. https://edis. ifas. ufl. edu/uw059.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management. Backyard Bird Feeding. http://library.fws.gov/Bird_Publications/feed.html

Common backyard birds and their favorite kinds of feeders

Bird

Tube

Feeder

Platform Feeder

Hopper Feeder

Nyjer

Feeder

Suet

Feeder

Nectar

Feeder

Fruit

Feeder

American Goldfinch

X

X

Eastern Bluebird

X

House Finch

X

X

X

X

X

Hummingbird

X

Jay

X

X

Northern Cardinal

X

X

X

Nuthatch

X

X

Oriole

X

X

Song Sparrow

X

Titmouse

X

X

X

X

Warbler

X

Woodpecker

X

X

Wren

X

Publication # WEC 162

Release Date:February 22, 2019

Reviewed At:August 30, 2021

In order to provide specific information, trade names have only been used in this publication. The products listed are not UF/IFAS’s responsibility or warranty, and any mention of them in this publication does not imply that we support the exclusion of other products with a suitable composition.

how to attract birds in florida

This paper is part of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation’s UF/IFAS Extension series and is WEC 162 (formerly titled Birdfeeders: What to Consider When Selecting). Original publication date September 2003. Revised April 2011. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis. ifas. ufl. edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

Emma V. Willcox, regional specialized agent; Mark E. Hostetler, an assistant professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and specialist in wildlife extension; Martin B. Main, an associate professor in the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, and Maena Voigt, a graduate student in the same department at UF/IFAS Extension in Gainesville, Florida 32611

Larger birds such as thrashers, redwing blackbirds, bobwhites, doves, mockingbirds, catbirds, and grosbeaks feed on seeds, as do sparrows, warblers, finches, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, and indigo buntings. Leave wildflower seedheads on the plants for birds to eat after they have bloomed. Some flowerheads might break, releasing seeds onto the ground that draw in smaller birds like finches.

FAQ

What attracts birds fast?

To attract the most birds to your yard you need to provide food, water, and shelter. A variety of food sources will bring in more birds. Instead of just seed, add fruit, peanuts, suet, peanut butter, jelly, and sugar water. Have native bushes and plants available that produce berries and seeds.

Do bird feeders work in Florida?

Two basic types of seed feeders work well in South Florida; the tube feeder and the hopper. Droll Yankee makes excellent tube feeders and you may opt to add a round tray at the bottom for larger birds like Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays to perch.

What is the best bird food in Florida?

Ground-feeding birds like quails, sparrows, juncos and towhees tend to enjoy white millet along with the black oil sunflower seeds. Safflower, milo, and cracked corn are good options for plenty of birds too.

Do birds use birdhouses in Florida?

Properly built bird houses or nest boxes can mimic natural cavities and help to increase the availability of this limiting habitat component. Some cavity-nesters in Florida, such as black and turkey vultures, chimney swifts, and pileated and red-cockaded woodpeckers will not readily use bird houses.