Backyard birds

November 9, 2020
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Birds are frequent, welcome visitors to backyards year-round. Birds can eat common pests like mosquitoes, mosquito larvae, and grubs. Many songbirds are both visually pretty and have beautiful songs. Bird feeders can be a great way to attract birds to your yard. However, birds can also be sensitive to pesticides, so maintaining an organic lawn is imported to help keep your feathered visitors safe.


The first step is choosing a feeder. There are many different bird feeder types, and different types will attract different birds. Basic types of feeders include:

  • Platform feeders
  • House feeders
  • Tube feeders
  • Window feeders

Chickadee at a house feeder

Platform feeders are simply platforms where seed can be spread and can either be hung or mounted on a pole. Most birds will feed on a platform feeder, but ground feeding birds especially like platform feeders. However, they can also be very attractive to squirrels and can harbor droppings, so it is important to keep them clean. House feeders are also popular with most feeder birds and have the benefit of keeping the seed protected and dry. However, if seeds in house feeders does get wet, it can quickly harbor fungus and bacteria, so it is important to keep them clean. Window feeders can be a great way to observe birds up close. They are also in a location that is easy to change seed and take down for cleaning, so seeds should stay fresh and clean. Tube feeders can also attract a wide variety of birds, depending on the side of the food ports. Smaller food ports will favor smaller birds like finches and sparrows and exclude birds like jays. Larger ports will be attractive to a wide variety of birds. However, it is important to keep them clean and to make sure any inaccessible seeds at the bottom are emptied out regularly.

Seed Types

Many types of feeders will accommodate different types of seed. Different birds are attracted to different seeds. While a lot of hardware stores will sell bird seed mixes, a lot of mixes include seeds like golden millet, red millet, flax seed and others that many birds do not eat. These seeds are instead ignored and instead attract squirrels, fungus, and bacteria. These seeds will also often be scattered as birds discard them, and sprout weeds. Instead, it is best to pick specific seeds that attract either specific birds or a wide variety of birds. Sunflower seeds attract most birds and work in a variety of feeder types. However, shells may also need to be picked or raked up. Safflower is attractive to cardinals and grosbeaks, chickadees, doves and sparrows and is general disliked by squirrels. Nyjer thistle is favored by finches and goes well in tube feeders with smaller openings and is also sold in socks that finches and other small beaked birds can extract it from. Many birds, including jays, quail, grouse, turkeys, crows, ravens and ducks are attracted to corn. However, corn can also attract a whole host of other wildlife, including raccoons, deer, and geese. Corn can be sensitive to fungus, which can be harmful to birds. It’s best to only put out a small amount of corn and dispose of any corn that gets wet. Peanuts can be similarly sensitive to fungus, but small amounts can attract jays, woodpeckers, chickadees and titmice.

Finches eating nyjer at a tube feeder

Other food

While seeds are the most common type of wild bird food, other types of food can attract a wider variety of birds to your yard. One of the most common non-seed bird foods is suet, which is made from beef fat and is attractive to woodpecker, jays, chickadees, wrens, cardinals, and some warblers. Raw suet is not recommended, as it can go rancid quickly, but there are many rendered suet options on the market. Suet is recommended for cooler months, as it can get soft in warm weather and coat the feathers of visiting birds. Specialty suet feeders exist that can be hung or mounted on posts. Peanut butter is another good winter treat for birds, when it will stay hard and not get soft and oily. Regular peanut butter is fine to feed birds. Fruit can attract migrating birds that may not be regular feeder visitors, especially in the spring when wild fruits are not as readily available. Mockingbirds, bluebirds, robins, and orioles (Maryland’s state bird!) are all attracted to fruit, including raspberries, orange slices, grapes or melons. Offering fruit in plastic bowls, rather than traditional feeders can help keep the feeding area clean and free of mold. In addition to fruit, birds like orioles are also attracted to small amounts of jelly. Its’s important to not put out too much, as smaller birds could get stuck. In addition, seed bearing plants and insects found naturally in yards and gardens can also be food sources for birds. Just be sure to keep these plants free from pesticides, as birds can be sensitive to pesticides.

Baltimore oriole feeding on a orange half.

Post by: Emily Elkonoh


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