Fiber: This One’s for the Birds

It’s probably not something you think about every day – but our feathered friends need their fiber, too.

In anarticle in HGTV Magazine several years ago, Stephen Kress – vice president for bird conservation at the National Audubon Society – said you want to fill your feeder properly. It is important to know what bird feed is good for your local feathered friends and, more importantly, what is NOT ok to feed the birds.

According to Kress, “Feeding birds is not necessary for their survival except in extreme weather conditions. Feeders can help them get through that kind of weather. He suggests planting natural habitat and native plants because most birds eat insects and may not be that interested in the backyard feeders.

If you do decide to set out feeders for birds, the ones who would visit the feeders are more likely to visit them if there is some type of cover nearby. They can go to the feeder and then go back to safety in the shrubs if they feel threatened. It is also better to keep bird feeders within 3 feet of a window so if the bird is startled, it will be less likely to fly into the window.

Birds are energetic animals and need high calories options, so foods like bread and wheat in a bird feeder do not cut it. In fact, what many people feed birds during the winter may be putting them at risk.

Instead, aim to fill your bird feeder with more nutritious options, such as:

  • Millet
  • Cracked corn
  • Black-oil sunflower seeds
  • Thistle (Nyjer)
  • Milo, wheat & oats

Filling feeders with these seeds will ensure the feed will be eaten instead of scattered on the ground underneath. The more feed that ends up on the ground, the more likely there will be rodents visiting to consume the spoils.

It is also a good idea to think about the bird species that would visit the feeders. Some bird species are more aggressive. They may eat a lot of the feed but not leave feed for the other species who may visit the feeder.

You may also want to consider the types of feeders you set up and put them. For instance, doves, sparrows, juncos and other ground-dwelling birds will prefer to feed from a low platform feeder. Tube feeders are good for chickadees, titmice, and different finches. Hopper feeders are good for larger birds like grackles, blackbirds, and cardinals. Suet feeders are great for nuthatches and woodpeckers, as well as warblers and wrens.

Keeping your bird feeders clean is also important. Kress recommends completely cleaning the feeders with a 10 percent non-chlorinated bleach solution several times a year, but especially between season. You will also want to completely remove any uneaten food after about 2 weeks to ensure that the food hasn’t gotten wet and started to produce mold which could get the birds sick.

For more information on how to stock your bird feeder, check out the National Audubon Society’s Bird Feeding Basics page.

Sometimes it is difficult to find the type of birdfeeder you want, so here are some feeders you may want to check out.