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To prevent a great deal of waste, choose only types of food that will attract birds you want. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends putting out separate feeders for each food. Why not give these a try?
•With most birds that visit tube and house-type feeders, hands-down favorite is black oil sunflower seeds. A tube feeder with sunflower seeds will attract goldfinches, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. If you add a tray, you’re likely to also see cardinals, jays and finches. A bonus: sunflower seeds are NOT first pick of crows and starlings.
•Doves and several types of sparrows enjoy millet served in a house or platform feeder.
•A hanging suet feeder will be a treat for woodpeckers, as well as chickadees, wrens, nuthatches and cardinals. Starlings also like suet but you can discourage them by using a suet feeder with access only at bottom. Starlings are reluctant to perch upside down but chickadees and woodpeckers don’t mind at all. If you’re in a warmer climate, use commercially rendered suet cakes that are safe for use in heat, rather than raw beef fat.
There is no research to indicate that backyard bird feeding has a negative effect on wild bird populations. In fact, it may help in many situations, such as when natural food sources are scarce or birds are migrating. Once you start feeding though, you should keep it up throughout year. And don’t let feeders get empty before re-filling, or birds will look for food elsewhere and may take a while to find you again. What specific birds you attract and feed will vary depending on your location and treats you offer. You can look in a bird field guide to determine which species are likely to be in your area and then look up what foods are their favorites. So get out there and feed birds!
Debbie Rodgers owns and operates Paradise Porch, and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces that nurture and enrich them. Visit her on the web at www.paradiseporch.com and get a free report on “Eight easy ways to create privacy in your outdoor space”. Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org