spring bird feeding advice

Cover Photo: Baltimore Orioles love oranges! Ohio, Magee Marsh May 2010 from the Surfbirds galleries � Glyn Sellors

Spring brings changes at the bird-feeder, but even more exciting birds visit other parts of the backyard. Spring often starts with the departure of old friends that have spent the winter with us.

Blackbirds are the first to leave. Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Common Grackles spend January in southern states but by February they are ready to start moving north. Sparrows and juncos will stay south longer but by mid-April they are all on the move.

May surprises at the sunflower feeder include Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting in the east and Black-headed Grosbeak in the west. Female grosbeaks look like large sparrows with bold stripes on their heads. Males are much brighter and even resemble an oriole with a brief view. However, orioles have thin nectar-sipping bills. Female Indigo Buntings are plain brown whereas males are bright blue.

If you live along the Pacific or Gulf of Mexico you should offer nectar year-round, othewise bring nectar feeders out in eary April in the south and May in the north. Nectar is mostly for hummingbirds but there are feeders for orioles and even woodpeckers. See our Hummingbird Nectar Recipe


Flowering trees and shrubs pay off big time in spring. Many birds will choose to stop over especially Thrashers and Towhees.

"Warbler fever" strikes in May. It won't make you sick but the sight of one of these beauties will stop your heart momentarily. Good yard plantings and shallow bath or pond is all you need. Make you own Bird Bath


Birds need drinking and bathing water just as much as they need food. Birds are attracted to the sound of running water. They are attracted to moving, shallow water. A dripping hose or a trickle of water running into a one-inch pan with gravel on the bottom is excellent. An old bucket with a triangular piece of cloth pulled through a drip hole and hung over an old baking pan will do as well as an elaborate pool. Another cheap alternative is to buy an electric fountain motor from a hardware store such as Home Depot and put it in an a large plant pot with some rocks at the bottom.


Male American Goldfinches in spring are arresting. They have most likely been with you all winter but you don't notice them until the spring plumage is acquired.

Blackburnian Warbler