Feeding Wild Birds
- Take your time. You can start with one good bird feeder and quality food. As more birds come, add more feeders and nesting boxes, roosting boxes, squirrel feeders, bird baths, plants, bat boxes, butterfly boxes, bee homes. Your imagination is the limit.
- Hang feeders on a sturdy branch or put a pole in the ground. Use strong wire, chain or rope and a clip for easy removal. Some feeders can be connected to a deck railing or placed on a window.
- Birds make droppings and scatter seed. Be sure your feeders are in places where this is ok or use a no-grow/no mess blend.
- Keep it clean. Regularly clean the inside of your feeders as well as underneath them.
- Keep it fresh. Birds require a high protein diet and get the most benefit from high-quality seed and suet. Seed can get stale or moldy and spread diseases among birds. If the birds don't eat the seed within two weeks, put less in your feeder or try a different type of seed.
- Cats can be pests. Cats are responsible for the death of 5 million wild birds a year in North America. Place your feeder high enough to be out of their reach and away from places they can hide while stalking. Thorny branches such as roses or blackberry brambles can be spread underneath your feeder. Collar bells, de-clawing and keeping cats well fed will not stop cats from hunting birds. Keep your own cats inside.
- Squirrels may keep birds away from your feeders. They can gobble up or steal all of your food. Your feeder needs about 10 feet of clearance in all directions. Domes and baffles can be effective protection. Try a squirrel-proof feeder or put up a feeder just for the squirrels.
- Window collisions can kill. Some windows reflect the sky or vegetation and birds are fooled into thinking they can fly through them. Attaching decorative decals or other decorations to the outside surface of the glass can reduce reflections. Feeder birds fleeing predators are vulnerable to window collisions. If this happens at your house, consider moving feeders within three feet of the windows so that birds cannot accelerate to injury level speeds while flying away. Problem windows can be covered with a screen so that birds bounce off, rather than hit the glass.
- Now that you have your bird feeding station set up, sit back and enjoy the birds. You can feel good about your contribution. Maybe buy a pair of binoculars and a bird book to help identify and learn more about your new visitors.
- Feel free to share your experiences with us at www.wildbirdchalet.com. Please come again or tell your friends about us and they too can be for the birds.
- Wash feeders monthly in a 10% bleach solution. Many higher quality feeders are dishwasher safe.
- Move feeders, rake seed hulls or run your lawn mower with a bag over the area underneath feeders.
- Throw out any moldy or old feed. Start out with the freshest seed available.
- Scrub and refill birdbaths every 2-5 days. Try a few spikes of lavender in the water to prevent algae.
- Clean hummingbird feeders every 3-5 days, or every other day in warm weather.
Wild Bird Habitat
Habitat loss is the biggest challenge facing wild birds today. You can turn your yard into a habitat for birds.
- Birds love areas with a diversity of food, shelter and water. A mix of low, medium and tall trees and shrubs can provide food, nesting areas and perches. Open areas are good too. And remember, no area is too small for birds to find.
- Supplement the diminishing food supplies and nesting opportunities of wild birds with high quality seed and suet, as well as nest boxes and seasonal nesting materials.
- Like people, birds need water. If you add a bird bath or pond or watering station, make sure it is kept full and clean. This will prevent the spread of disease and viruses among birds.
- Insects are a high quality protein which many birds and bats need for survival. Don't spray if you don't have to.
- Plants at the edge of your property adjoin your neighbor's and can make a much bigger habitat. These corridors are ways for birds and other animals to travel safely.
- Year-round interest draws them in. Plants that bloom and flower at different times of the year attract different species. Hummingbirds collect nectar from red flowering current in the spring. Cedar Waxwings love mulberries in summer. Squirrels and Stellar Jay's are regular visitors to Hazelnut trees. Flickers like apples in the fall and winter. Red Elderberries are eaten by Grosbeaks as well as many other birds.
- Bird watching is relaxing, fun and educational. Help yourself and your family out while you help the wild birds.
Avian Salmonellosis and bird feeding
Salmonella infections have periodically killed off large numbers of songbirds only since the 1980's. These die-offs may be attributed to more contact with environmental contamination such as garbage, wastewater discharges from livestock and poultry operations or sewage, and not necessarily greater bird concentration at feeders.
Besides cleaning feeders and areas around them, there are several other steps that people can take.
- Salmonellosis causes dehydration. Providing clean, fresh water (changed daily) can help stop the spread of the disease.
- Feed seeds without shells - less mess means a cleaner feeding area.
- Use the freshest food available – healthy birds withstand disease better.
- Consider moving some feeders to reduce crowding.
- Provide long term habitat for your bird friends. Plant trees and shrubs that give birds more room to live and forage.
Stressed birds are more prone to disease. Sudden changes in food availability can be very stressful. Before you immediately stop feeding, consider the newly fledged birds that are currently coming to your feeders, such as Chickadees. At the most vulnerable time in a young bird's life, your food supplementation may be giving them the extra help they need to survive.