how to feed a wild bird

Every year in the US, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds by preying on ground-feeding birds and those stunned by window collisions. Cats are safer indoors, away from traffic, illness, and animal fights, when they are owned by responsible and compassionate people. The springtime, when fledglings are on the ground, is when outdoor cats pose the greatest threat to birds. Bells on cat collars are usually ineffective for deterring predation.

The widest range of birds will be drawn to a varied blend of seeds. To avoid waste, offer different seeds in different feeders. The most popular sunflower seed among birds is black oil. Provide peanuts, sunflower seeds, and nyjer (thistle) seeds in different feeders. Select blends that contain the three most common types of birdseed: cracked corn, millet, and sunflower seeds. Sunflower-specialist birds will happily consume the sunflower seed, scattering the millet and corn for ground-dwelling birds like juncos and sparrows to nibble on. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and titmice are drawn to peanut, nut, and dried fruit mixtures. Milo, wheat, and oats are preferred by a small number of species and are found in less expensive blends.

Mix one part white sugar to four parts water to make a sugar solution. Sugar crystals can be sterilized and dissolved by briefly boiling them; red food coloring is not necessary. Feeders need to be meticulously cleaned and washed in extremely hot water every few days to stop the growth of mold.

Insect-eating birds like woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice are drawn to suet (beef fat). To keep the suet out of dogs’ reach, place it in special feeders or net onion bags that are at least five feet off the ground. Suet can go rancid in hot weather, so avoid leaving it outside. Additionally, dripping fat can harm the natural waterproofing on bird feathers.

In the summer, peanut butter works well in place of suet. Combine one part peanut butter with five parts corn meal, then insert the mixture into the cracks in a large pinecone or the holes drilled in a hanging log. This all-season mixture attracts woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and occasionally warblers.

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If you like to feed and observe the birds in your backyard, you probably want to take all the necessary precautions to practice your hobby safely and to maintain the general health and wellbeing of the birds. There are steps you can take to ensure your birds stay healthy, even though the likelihood of birds becoming sick from feeders is low compared to other natural hazards birds face.


Is feeding wild birds OK?

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.