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    • Backyard Bird Feeding Guide •

    You’ve seen cardinals, blue jays, robins, chickadees and goldfinches in the neighborhood and would love to attract them—and other common bird species—to your backyard. The solution: Hang birdfeeders, fill them with birdseed and watch the birds flock to the buffet.

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    Click on any bird to find their favorite food and feeders

    Click on any bird to find their favorite food and feeders


    • Feeding backyard birds •

    Hanging multiple styles of feeders filled with different types of seed will attract the greatest diversity of bird species. Follow these tips to place your feeders in the right locations.

    Stagger feeder heights

    Different birds have different feeding habits. Mounting feeders at various heights - from ground level to perched on the top of tall poles - will help attract the greatest diversity of bird species.

     


    Give them space

    Leave ample space between feeders to prevent overcrowding and leave at least 10 feet between birdfeeders and the nearest trees and shrubs to keep squirrels from raiding feeders. Remember to hang feeders at least three feet from windows to minimize the risk of window collisions.

    Offer a buffet

    The more variety of seeds in your feeders, the greater the number of bird species you’ll attract. Mixed birdseed is great but birds will eat some seeds and let other seeds fall to the ground. Choose a few “specialist” seeds like sunflower seeds and thistle, as well as mixed birdseed.

    Keep it clean

    Clean feeders with soap and hot water each spring and fall (and more often if temperatures are hot and humid) and make sure to clean up spilled seed and sunflower hulls to avoid attracting pests. Never leave suet out in the hot sun. Dump and replace soggy seeds to prevent fungus.


    • Bird feeding on a budget •

    Don't give up on your birdwatching self-care. Even if you're on a budget (like so many of us are these days), you can keep the wild birds visiting and your bird call app busy.

    Here's a few tips for backyard birdwatching on a budget.

    Keep things wallet-friendly

    Look for value options when it comes to feed. There's plenty of options for under $20, that will keep your hobby going and the birds full. 

    Shop wild bird food under $20 >

    Space out your feeder fills

    Allow birds to forage for a few days after the feeders are empty, especially when plants are blooming. If the heat kicks up, plan to fill more frequently. This will help you save the bird seed budget for winter, when your local community of non-migrating birds need a little help.

    Find feeders for under $20 >

    Plant native

    For a long-term plan, plant native flowers like coneflowers and rudbeckia to help supplement seeds during the seasons. Seed loving birds will appreciate the variety, as will the pollinators like bees and and butterflies.

    Shop all plants >


    • Selecting the best birdseed •

    Some birds will happily gobble up any type of birdseed while others have pickier palates and will turn up their beaks unless the seed selection is just right. Knowing which types of birdseed birds prefer can help you attract certain species to your backyard.

    Sunflower seeds

    Choose black oil or striped sunflower seed (or a birdseed that includes both) and watch birds use their beaks to crack the shells and feast on the nutritious nut hiding inside. Look for bags labeled “hulled” or “sunflower hearts” that offer the same nutritious seeds without the messy shells.

    Shop sunflower seed >

    Nyjer

    The premium, thin-shelled black seeds have a high oil content. Nyjer seed, also called or thistle, is a favorite of purple finches, goldfinches, pine siskins and other active birds.

    Shop nyjer seed >

     


    Corn

    Corn should be offered in small amounts as it lacks essential oils found in other seed. It can still be a good source of protein and fiber for birds like cardinals, grosbeaks, grouse, pheasants and quails; even ducks and turkeys love cracked corn.

    Shop for corn >


    Peanuts

    Crows, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers will eat shelled or unshelled peanuts. Damp peanuts can contain aflatoxins, a type of mold that is toxic to birds. Toss old peanuts and put out fresh ones on a regular basis.

    Shop peanuts >

    Milo

    Milo, also known as sorghum, attracts ground feeding birds like doves, quails and pheasants. The reddish color seed is often used as filler in wild bird seed. Don’t fill an entire birdfeeder with milo. Instead, add it to other seeds as part of a DIY birdseed mix.

    Shop milo seed >

    Safflower

    Cone-shaped white seeds inside thick shells source protein and fiber for cardinals, finches, titmice and grosbeaks. Blackbirds, grackles and squirrels aren't fans and will stay away.

    Shop safflower bird feed >

    Suet

    Made from raw animal fats mixed with seeds, oats, mealworms and sometimes fruit, suet is chock full of protein, fat and calories. The high fat content makes it a popular in winter when birds need extra calories.

    Shop suet cakes >

    Nectar

    Hummingbirds aren’t the sole species drawn to nectar. Orioles and certain species of woodpeckers and warblers will also consume nectar. The mixture of water and cane sugar is an important source of energy.

    Shop for nectar >

    Millet

    Millet is a cereal grain that’s high in protein and calcium. It’s a favorite of ground feeding birds like juncos, doves, towhees and sparrows.

    Shop millet bird seed >


    • Choosing the right bird feeders •

    Just as certain species of birds prefer specific seed varieties; different birds prefer eating from different kinds of feeders. The greater the variety of feeders you hang, the greater diversity of birds you’ll attract.

    Suet feeders

    These feeders are the perfect size to hold blocks of suet, called suet cakes. The designs range from small square or cylindrical metal cages that hang from chains to more elaborate “tail prop” feeders that feature a platform where birds can rest their tails while feeding. All suet feeders were designed to be hung. It’s best to hang suet feeders at least six feet off of the ground and choose a location in the shade (and limit their use to fall and winter when birds need the additional calories).

    Ground feeders

    As their name suggests, ground feeders are set on the ground or mounted close to the ground to attract sparrows, doves, towhees, goldfinches and other birds that prefer eating from stable (not swinging) feeders while standing on solid ground. 





    Nectar feeder

    Best known as “hummingbird feeders,” these feeders have reservoirs that can be filled with nectar and feeding ports where birds dip their beaks to access the sweet feed.







    Thistle feeder

    At first glance, thistle feeders (also called nyjer feeders) look similar to tube feeders but there is one important difference: Thistle feeders have much smaller holes designed to allow American Goldfinches, Redpolls, Pine Siskins and other small-beaked finches while preventing larger birds from accessing the seeds. Thistle feeders were designed to be hung in trees or mounted on poles.



    Hopper feeder

    Birdfeeders that look like houses—or other structures with multiple sides and a roof—are called hopper feeders or house bird feeder. The feeders were designed to hold large quantities of thistle, sunflower or mixed bird seeds; some hopper feeders have multiple compartments to hold several different kinds of bird seed at once. The seed is housed inside the feeder and protected from the elements. Hopper feeders can be hung from trees, mounted on poles or affixed to windows and attract diverse bird species, including doves, woodpeckers, grosbeaks and nuthatches that land on the platforms and eat the seeds on the trays.

    Platform feeder

    A basic platform (or tray) is hung, mounted on a pole or affixed to a window, filled with seeds and left out for the birds to find. The biggest advantage of a platform feeder is the number of different bird species it attracts. Since it can be used with all types of birdseed and there are no ports or perches designed to favor one species over another, platform feeders, also called tray feeders, will attract birds from finches to crows. Platform feeders are uncovered and open to the elements, which increases the risk that wet birdseed could grow fungus. Seed left out overnight can also attract pests. Add seeds in the morning and clean up the leftovers at night.

    Tube feeders

    These long, narrow feeders come in different designs. Some are mesh tubes with wide trays at the base collecting seeds and serve as a perch. Others have multiple ports with perches where small birds like finches, grosbeaks, chickadees and titmice can land to feed. Tube feeders are also called sunflower seed feeders because striped and black oil sunflower seeds are among the most popular seeds used. Tube feeders can also be filled with nyjer, millet or wild birdseed blends.




    • Common backyard birds •

    Birds eat varied diets that include berries, nuts, seeds, nectar and insects. When those foods are scarce in the wild, birds flock to feeders filled with birdseed to supplement their diets. The average bird eats up to half of their weight in seeds every day and are happiest consuming bird seeds that meet their unique nutritional needs from feeders that suit their eating habits.

    Understanding which feeders and which seeds will attract certain bird species can help you create a backyard buffet that the birds will love.

    Chickadees

    To attract chickadees, bring in their favorite feeders and food. Look for:

    • Suet feeder, tube feeders, platform feeder                                        
    • Peanuts and suet

     

    Shop all chickadee feeders and seed >

     


    Chickadees

    To attract chickadees, bring in their favorite feeders and food. Look for:

    • Suet feeders, tube feeders, platform feeders
    • Peanuts and suet

    Shop all chickadee feeders and seed >



    Cardinals

    To attract cardinal pairs, bring in their favorite feeders and food. Look for:

    • Suet feeders, tube feeders, platform feeders, hopper feeders and ground feeders
    • Corn, sunflower seeds, safflower

    Shop cardinal favorites >

    Cardinals

    To attract cardinal pairs, bring in their favorite feeders and food. Look for:

    • Suet feeder, tube feeders, platform feeder, hopper feeders, and ground feeders
    • Corn, sunflower seeds, safflower

     

    Shop cardinal favorites >



    Woodpeckers

    To attract woodpeckers to your backyard, hang these feeder types with these woodpecker favorites:

    • Suet feeders, hopper feeders, platform feeders
    • Peanuts, suet, nectar

    Shop for woodpecker feeders and seed >


    Woodpeckers

    To attract woodpeckers to your backyard, hang these feeder types with these woodpecker favorites:

    • Suet feeder, hooper feeders, platform feeder
    • Peanuts, suet, nectar

     

    Shop for woodpecker feeders and seed >

     


    Titmouse

    Keep the titmouse birds happy with these feeders and seeds:

    • Tube feeders, platform feeder
    • Peanuts and safflower

    Shop for titmice favorites >


    Titmouse

    Keep the titmouse birds happy with these feeders and seeds:

    • Tube feeders, platform feeder
    • Peanuts and safflower

     

    Shop for titmice favorites >


    Crows

    If you'd like to exchange pleasantries with crows, add these types of feeders and seed to your birding setup.

    • Platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feed
    • Corn, sunflower seeds, safflower, peanuts

    Shop for crow favorites >



    Grosbeaks

    Bring grosbeaks to your space with these favorite seeds and feeder types.

    • Tube feeders, ground feeders, hopper feeders
    • Corn and safflower

    Shop grosbeaks favorites >

    Crows

    If you'd like exchange pleasantries with crows, add these types of feeders and seed to your birding setup:

    • Platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeders
    • Corn, sunflower seeds, safflower

     

    Shop for crow favorites >

     



    Doves

    Fill these bird feeders with milo and millet and enjoy the sweet coos of backyard doves.

    • Platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeders
    • Milo and millet

    Shop for backyard dove favorites >



    Sparrows

    Sparrows like space to feed. Plant these feeders and fill with millet to attract these very common backyard birds.

    • Ground feeders, hopper feeders, platform feeders
    • Millet

    Shop for sparrow feeders and seed >



    Blue Jays

    To bring that bold blue and grey to your feeding stations, keep these blue jay favorites stocked:

    • Suet feeders, platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeder
    • Suet and sunflower seeds

    Shop for blue jay favorites >



    Wrens

    Wrens will become regular visitors if you keep the suet cakes stocked.

    • Suet feeders
    • Suet

    Shop for wrens >



    Nuthatches

    Nuthatches love seeds and insects. Place one of these feeders in your garden and stock it with a nuthatches favorite treat.

    • Suet feeder, platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeder
    • Suet, sunflower hearts, peanuts, mealworms

    Shop for nuthatch favorites >

    Grosbeaks

    Bring grosbeaks to your space with these favorite seeds and feeder types.

    • Tube feeders, ground feeders, hopper feeders
    • Corn and safflower

     

    Shop grosbeaks favorites >



    Hummingbirds

    These tiny and quick birds are a joy for any garden. Plant an abundance of colorful flowers or hang a few of these feeders to entice hummingbirds.

    • Hummingbird feeders (Nectar feeders)
    • Nectar

    Shop for hummingbird >

    Doves

    Fill these bird feeders with milo and millet and enjoy the sweet coos of backyard doves.

    • Platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeders
    • Milo and millet

     

    Shop for backyard dove favorites >



    Orioles

    To attract bright feathered orioles to your yard, grab some oranges.

    • Nectar feeder
    • Nectar (Oranges)

    Shop for oriole favorites >

    Sparrows

    Sparrows like space to eat. Plant these feeders and fill with millet to attract these very common backyard birds.

    • Ground feeders, hopper feeders, platform feeders
    • Millet

     

    Shop for sparrow feeders and seed >



    Finches

    Finch beaks are small and they love to perch. Hang feeders with several perch spots and even caged tube feeders to keep finch birds coming to visit.

    • Thistle feeders, tube feeders
    • Niger, safflower, sunflower seeds

    Shop for finch favorites >

    Blue Jays

    To bring that bold blue and grey to your feeding stations, keep these Blue Jay favorites stocked:

    • Suet feeders, platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeder
    • Suet and sunflower seeds

     

    Shop for blue jay favorites >


    Wrens

    Wrens will become regular visitors if you keep the suet cakes stocked.

    • Suet feeders
    • Suet

     

    Shop for wrens >


    Nuthatches

    Nuthatches love seeds and insects. Place one of these feeders in your garden and stock it with a nuthatches favorite treat.

    • Suet feeder, platform feeder, hopper feeder, ground feeder
    • Suet, sunflower hearts, peanuts, mealworms

     

    Shop for nuthatch favorites >


    Hummingbirds

    These tiny and quick birds are a joy for any garden. Plant an abundance of colorful flowers or hang a few of these feeders to entice hummingbirds.

    • Hummingbird feeders (Nectar feeders)
    • Nectar

     

    Shop for hummingbird >


    Orioles

    To attract bright feathered orioles to your yard, grab some oranges.

    • Nectar feeder
    • Nectar (Oranges)

     

    Shop for oriole favorites >


    Finches

    Finch beaks are small and they love to perch. Hang feeders with several perch spots and even caged tube feeders to keep finch birds coming to visit.

    • Thistle feeders, tube feeders
    • Niger, safflower, sunflower seeds

     

    Shop for finch favorites >

    Keep your backyard full of feathered friends.


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