Bird feeding tips

Cover Photo: Indigo Bunting from the Surfbirds galleries © Mark Szantyr

Most of us start watching birds close to home, at a window or in our backyard. One more way to see more birds is to make your home and backyard more attractive to them. The key is to provide the basic necessities for birds: food, water, and shelter.

In spring our backyard birds need us more than ever. Here are our Top 10 spring feeding tips.

1. Spring can be a tough season for wild birds

Backyard birds gleaned every last flower and weed seed over the winter. It will be many weeks before flowers bloom and insects emerge.

2. Assess Your Feeders' Condition

Winter is tough on bird feeders too. Take a good look at your feeders. Are there cracks in plastic tubes or splintered wood on roofs of feeders? Is there mold or seed accumulation? These feeders need to be taken out of commission so they don't injure or sicken birds. See Bird Feeder Maintenance.

3. Birds can be fussy eaters

They like to come back to the same feeders that have the food they want. Many people buy the same bag of seed and put it in the same feeders. Now that spring is here, ask yourself "what kind of birds would you most like to attract to your backyard?" In the spring, try putting out sunflower seeds to try and attract a Grosbeak!

4. More feeders mean more birds.

It's true! Birds come in many shapes and sizes with different beak shapes too. Finches pull thin seed heads whilst Cardinals are ground feeders who use domed or platform feeders.

5. It's not just about the seed

There are about 100 species of bird that are regularly drawn to backyard feeding stations. Some only on migration others are all year. Offer a variety of food such as nectar, fruit, suet and seed. And don't forget the mealworms! You'll be amazed at the diversity.

6. It's all about the worm!

Mealworms are becoming more popular as backyard bird feeders discover how much the bird slike them. Mealworms attract bluebirds and many other songbirds. Mealworms are perfect for adults trying to feed youngsters. You can really help with the brood by supplying mealworms.

7. Water

Water is essential. A realiable water source wil bring in 3 times as many birds as a waterless backyard. Seed-eaters are always thirsty. Birds also need to bath frequently too

8. Moldy seed

Spring rains can turn seed moldy. Keep a close eye on it and store your unused seed in metal containers.

9. Birds are messy

Rake up debris under feeders and move feeders to allow grass to recover. If black-oil sunflower seeds are killing your grass, recommend a switch to sunflower chips. These need a covered feeder since they spoil easily.

10. Clean Your Feeders

There are many diseases out there (eg salmonella and conjunctivitis) and an unclean feeder may be inadvertantly doing birds more harm than good.

Look out for the Rose-breasted Grosbeak this spring!

They are a large (much bigger than a sparrow) black and white finch with a bright red patch on their breast. They love sunflower seeds! So stock up and it may stay for a few days. The female is similar sized but brown with pale stripes over the eyes. The grosbeak has a very large beak for cracking tough nuts and seeds. It spends the winter in central America and often stops in yards with feeders on their northward migration in spring

Other colorful birds to look out for

Black-headed Grosbeak

male Baltimore Oriole

Indigo Bunting

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Female Baltimore Oriole

Bullock's Oriole