how to care for wild birds

If you have a bird feeder in your backyard, youre in good company. Bird watching is one of Americas fastest-growing hobbies, and surveys show that nearly half the households in the United States provide food for wild birds. With their colorful appearance and lively, cheerful attitude, its obvious why we love to have them around, especially during the winter months when the weather is cold and dreary. By feeding birds we bring them close so we can see them more easily, plus they can be quite entertaining.

Setting up a backyard bird feeder can make birds lives easier, too. In much of North America, winter is a difficult time for birds. Finding food can be especially challenging during periods of extreme cold. What should you serve your winged visitors? Should you control the amount of food you give them? These are common questions, and seeing the wide variety of bagged bird feed stocked on store shelves can make the task seem a little daunting. Once you understand the type of bird feeders and the types of birds likely to be attracted to the various types, the choices will be easier to make. Want to learn how to save on your birds veterinary care?

The easiest way to attract birds to your yard is to put up a bird feeder. There are many different ones on the market today. Most are made for seeds, but there are also specialty feeders for certain foods, such as sugar solution for hummingbirds, suet, or peanuts. Knowing which to choose depends on the kinds of birds you wish to attract.

When choosing which type of bird feeder you will use, make sure that is is sturdy enough to withstand winter weather, tight enough to keep seeds dry and large enough to avoid having to fill it too frequently. Plastic or metal feeders usually meet these criteria much better than wooden feeders, but it still really comes down to personal choice.

If you want to attract more than one variety of birds to your yard, you will have to use several different types of feeders and a variety of seeds. Another thing youll have to consider when selecting bird feeders, is making sure you dissuade the bird species you dont want around your yard.

4. Provide Place to Raise Young

From Brian Neiman, owner of the WBU in Lisle, IL.

Although the majority of people associate raising children with simply installing a birdhouse in their yard to qualify it as wildlife habitat, the concept goes beyond that.

how to care for wild birds

Initially, not every bird species will utilize a birdhouse. Indeed, a range of cavity-nesting birds, such as House Wrens and Screech Owls, will utilize a birdhouse; however, in order to draw the greatest diversity of birds to your property, one must consider habitat in its larger sense.

Start and leave a brush pile, a haven for birds to nest and to flee harsh weather swings, but what specifically do you do to create bird-friendly habitat? Give cavity-nesting birds a tree snag to dig a nesting hole in. Leave that patch of mud where the grass won’t grow so that birds can use it to build a nest. Turn a portion of the lawn into a native hedgerow to help a variety of nesting birds. While installing a birdhouse is undoubtedly a convenient way to meet certification requirements, there are countless other opportunities to enhance the variety of birds that call a property home.

Which Bird Food Do I Want?

Given the wide variety of bird feed options, it’s helpful to understand what kinds of foods the different species of birds eat. In certain regions of their range, some species may even have distinct dietary preferences.

  • Dried whole kernel corn: Jays, pigeons, doves, turkeys, pheasants, and quail all love this food. Along with the larger birds mentioned above, cracked corn attracts blackbirds, finches, and sparrows, which are easier for smaller birds to eat.
  • Red and white millet are the two varieties that are available. The majority of birds prefer the white proso millet over the red variety. Many ground-feeding birds, including sparrows, juncos, and doves, find millet to be appealing. Additionally, undesirable non-native species like European Starlings and House Sparrows are drawn to millet.
  • Milo: Sorghum or milo’s large, spherical, reddish seeds are frequently added as “filler” to mixes of bird seed. Most birds will only eat it if theres nothing better. Note that it might also draw unwanted, aggressive birds like starlings, grackles, and cowbirds.
  • Cardinals especially like sunflower seeds, but sunflower seeds are frequently less expensive than safflower. Grosbeaks, sparrows, and doves also like it. It’s sometimes recommended as a means of deterring unwanted species, as starlings, House Sparrows, and squirrels may find it less appealing.
  • Thistle seed, also called nyjer (sometimes spelled “niger”), is unrelated to native thistles but is commonly known as such. Small finches like redpolls, siskins, and goldfinches are drawn to its tiny seeds. Since nyjer is pricey, it is best served in thistle seed feeders that are specifically made with tiny feeding ports to prevent spills and deter larger birds.
  • Sunflower Seeds: The most popular type of sunflower seed for bird feeders is black-oil, which attracts birds that live in trees. It is high in fat and has a high meat-to-shell ratio. Small birds, like the Black-capped Chickadee, find it easy to handle and crack due to its small size and thin shell. Due to their larger size and thicker seed coats, striped sunflower seeds are more challenging for small birds to digest.
  • Peanuts attract a variety of birds, including many sparrows, cardinals, jays, titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and even Carolina wrens. They can be offered shelled or whole. Peanut feeders are specially-designed wire-mesh cages, often cylindrical.
  • The best places to scatter mixed seed are on the ground or on platform feeders. The main ingredient in mixed seed is usually millet, which ground-feeding birds prefer. Many feeder birds will not eat millet. Similarly, if millet is in a feeder, ground-feeding birds that prefer it won’t be able to access it. Consider adding sunflower seeds to hanging feeders and dispersing mixed seeds for birds that forage on the ground.
  • Hummingbirds and Nectar: The primary natural food source for hummingbirds is flower nectar. If you provide feeders to hummingbirds, you will have to prepare artificial nectar. You don’t need to buy pricey commercial hummingbird nectars with extra vitamins and minerals because hummingbirds also eat insects. A sugar solution is adequate.
  • Suet attracts a lot of insect-eating birds, including wrens, nuthatches, chickadees, kinglets, and even cardinals. Red-bellied woodpeckers, in particular, are drawn to it. Its a high-energy food, much appreciated in cold weather. Suet is the hard fat surrounding beef kidneys. It is affordable and can be found at many supermarket meat counters as well as butcher shops. Commercial suet cakes are made with “rendered” suet, which is prepared by melting, cooking, and straining it to reduce its susceptibility to melting and spoiling.
  • Fruit and Fruit Seeds: Since seeds don’t make up a large portion of their diet, birds like bluebirds, robins, thrushes, and waxwings typically don’t visit seed feeders. But you can attract them with fruit. Mockingbirds, tanagers, and catbirds may be attracted too. Try raisins or currants softened by soaking in water. Offer diced fresh fruit, such as apples, melons, or grapes. Particularly appealing to orioles—who also like grape jelly—are orange halves. Additionally, you can save the seeds from your Halloween pumpkins and other squash or melon fruits for the birds. Some relish these more than black-oil sunflower seeds. After letting them air dry, spread them out and process them in the food processor. This makes it easier for smaller birds to eat them.
  • Birds will also consume stale bread and other leftovers. Just watch out that they don’t get moldy or they could hurt the birds. Additionally, be mindful that leftover food may draw obtrusive animals like raccoons, house sparrows, rats, and European starlings.

One part sugar to four parts boiling water is the recipe for the sugar solution for hummingbirds (boil the water before measuring, because some water will evaporate in the process) When the mixture is cool it is ready for use. Extra sugar water can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, but if it’s kept longer, it could grow mold.

Red food coloring should not be added to the sugar solution as it is superfluous and could endanger the birds. Hummingbirds will also be drawn to feeders with red ribbons or portals, or even just plain red.

Important Tips for Sugar Solution:

  • To avoid mold growth and lethal fermentation, replace the solution every three to five days.
  • Clean the hummingbird feeder often.
  • NEVER use honey or artificial sweeteners in hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds may be at risk of dying from mold growth in honey, and sweeteners do not give birds the necessary energy and nourishment.
  • To keep insects away from feeding portals, avoid applying any kind of oil. Oil could contaminate the nectar or get on the feathers of the bird, destroying their insulating qualities.

Store your bird food carefully. If purchasing a large quantity of seed, store it in a metal can that is rodent-proof and dry. Check the seed often for mold. Throw out any seed that is questionable.

Selecting and caring for your wild bird feeders is a simple and fulfilling pastime that the whole family, especially the kids, will love. Feeding wild birds will make you develop an addiction to taking care of these adorable animals.

1. Provide Food for Wild Birds

From Matt Kosty, owner of the WBU in Fayetteville, NY.

Reliable and sustainable food sources are vital to any habitat. To help and draw the greatest range of backyard birds, we offer a variety of natural and artificial food sources in our habitat.

how to care for wild birds

Provide native plants in your habitat to attract more backyard birds. Native plants provide the best natural sources of food such as nectar, pollen, fruit, berries nuts and seeds. These plants all attract insects, which are vital to the habitat and provide another high protein food source for backyard birds.

Apart from the natural plants, you can provide additional food sources. Extra food sources include things like premium, high-fat seeds, nectar, suet, tree nuts, and nyger. Birds are drawn to supplemental food sources because they offer a consistent food source throughout the year. Keeping your habitat stocked with natural and artificial food sources will draw, support, and benefit more backyard birds.


How do you take care of a wild bird at home?

ADULT BIRDS Keep the bird dark and quiet in a box with soft bedding. Keep them in a room without people or pets to reduce stress. If they can stay upright, you may put a small lid of water, like from a peanut butter jar, and some food in the box with them.

Are you supposed to feed wild birds?

In general, it’s bad practice to feed wild animals. That’s because teaching wild animals to associate humans with handouts can lead to problems.

How do you take care of an abandoned bird?

If you think you’ve found a sick or wounded fledgling or nestling, call a rehabber, state wildlife agency, or veterinarian immediately. If it’s after hours, take the baby to a safe and warm location, Furr says, such as a closed box with air holes and a heating pad beneath it.