Feeding birds is a popular backyard activity in
Florida--a 1985 survey revealed that 66 percent of all respondents
had fed birds or other wildlife around their homes in the past
year. There's certainly no easier place to introduce children and
adults alike to the joys of bird-watching than at a backyard
feeder. Just offer food under reasonably sanitary conditions, and
you needn't worry about ill effects of supplemental feeding on
local bird populations. Let variety be your guide when you set up a
bird feeding station. You'll find that each species strongly
prefers certain foods and feeding situations.
Seeds are a favorite with many birds because of
their high protein and fat content. Studies have shown that the top
grain choices for birds are oil, striped and hulled sunflower
seeds; fine cracked corn; white proso millet; and niger (thistle)
seed. Use separate feeders for different kinds of grain to reduce
competition at feeders and prevent grain loss. Avoid most
commercial seed mixes. They are usually wasteful, because the birds
pick out only the grains they prefer; the rest ends up on the
ground and sprouts. You may be able to eliminate some nuisance
species if you keep their preferred food items out of your feeders.
Milo and hulled oats attract starlings. Wheat is preferred by
brown-headed cowbirds and house sparrows. Consult our references if you'd like to
learn more about individual bird species' feeding preferences.
Try placing several kinds of feeders at various
heights and locations in your garden to accommodate the different
eating styles of your birds. A varied backyard feeding program
- millet and cracked corn on the ground for doves, towhees,
sparrows and quail (unless cats, mice or rats are a problem)
- sunflower seeds, mixed grains and fruit offered on platform or
hopper feeders three or four feet off the ground for perching birds
like cardinals, finches and grosbeaks
- a suet feeder suspended or attached to a tree limb
It may attract at least 12 different species of
birds on a year-round basis. Raw suet will become rancid quickly,
so use the suet cake recipe below and place the feeder in a shady
Remember to locate your feeders in spots that are
easily visible from your house. Be certain that birds have access
to thick shrub or tree cover in which to escape predators within 10
to 20 feet of the feeder. However, don't place feeders in the
middle of dense shrubbery; these locations can work against the
birds and in favor of a stalking cat. Windows can be another hazard
to birds frequenting feeders. Bird collisions with windows usually
result from confusing scenic reflections and seemingly open
passageways. You can cut down on these accidents by hanging a
mobile or using stained glass or the silhouette of a hawk to break
up reflections on the windows.
REMEMBER, birds will readily visit backyard
feeders, even in relatively barren habitat. However, permanent
increases in local bird populations will only occur as your
landscape (their habitat) grows in richness and diversity.
Recipe for Suet Cake
1 cup ground suet
1 cup smooth peanut butter 2-3 cups yellow corn meal
1/2 cup enriched white or whole wheat flour
(1) Melt suet in saucepan.
(2) Add peanut butter, stirring until melted and blended. (3) In a
separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
(4) When the suet/peanut butter mix has cooled and J begins to
thicken, add the dry ingredients and blend thoroughly.
(5) Stuff mixture into a pine cone or form into cakes in muffin
tins for use in suet feeders.
A good bird feeder
- Hold enough food for two or three days use.
- Protect the food from inclement weather because wet grain
spoils quickly. Moldy food is unhealthy for birds.
- Be free from predators. Use pole guards if necessary and locate
close to cover.
- Keep spillage and waste to a minimum.
- Be easily seen from your favorite observation point near a
window, patio or porch.
- Be maintained year-round.