It is easy to get started feeding birds, but novice birders often make simple mistakes that can keep birds from enjoying their backyard feeders. While some mistakes only make feeders unattractive, others can endanger the birds. Feeding the birds requires more than just putting out birdseed. Avoiding these top 10 bird feeding mistakes can ensure a healthy, nutritious backyard buffet for a wide range of bird species.
1. Using Only One Kind of Bird Feeder
Birds have different feeding preferences, and different species prefer different feeder styles. Open feeders with trays or perches will attract a decent variety of birds, but to maximize backyard bird feeding it is essential to use a variety of feeders. Consider offering a mesh sock for goldfinches, nectar feeders for hummingbirds, suet feeders for woodpeckers, and jelly feeders for orioles.
2. Letting Feeders Get Empty
Birds can be forgiving if a feeder is empty for a few days, but a feeder that is consistently empty won't attract many birds. While wild birds won't starve if feeders are empty, they do grow to depend on feeders as a food source. Refilling feeders promptly will attract a wider variety of birds and will help keep the feeder clean and in good repair.
3. Using Bargain Basement Birdseed
The cheapest birdseed blends are often mostly fillers such as cracked corn, milo, or wheat. These seeds and grains appeal to very few bird species, and other birds will toss the seed to the ground instead of eating it. Birders can save money on birdseed by choosing the types of seeds their birds prefer and taking steps to recycle that seed in the most economical way.
4. Feeding Birds Bread
Bread may be made from grains, but heavily processed bread products – crackers, cookies, donuts, cereals, etc. – are junk food for wild birds and do not provide adequate nutrition either for mature birds or growing hatchlings. While bread and other kitchen scraps can be a very rare treat for backyard birds, they never should be fed to them exclusively.
5. Making Bad Hummingbird Nectar
Feeding hummingbirds is one of the most popular ways to enjoy backyard birds, but using any sweetener other than plain white sugar to make nectar can be dangerous. Choices such as honey, brown sugar and artificial sweeteners do not provide the proper sugar concentration hummingbirds need, and they can produce mold that is deadly to the birds.
See Also: Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
6. Including Natural Bird Food Sources
Feeding the birds does not have to mean only putting out bird feeders and buying seed. Backyard birders who avoid natural food sources such as fruit trees or nectar-producing flowers, or who kill insects that birds can feed on, are depriving birds of the most nutritious and most economical food sources available for wild birds.
7. Not Feeding Winter Birds
Many novice backyard birders assume it isn't necessary to feed birds in winter because there are no birds around. In fact, feeders can be even more critical to the dozens of backyard winter birds, many of which aren't around in summer. These species are happy to visit winter feeders.
8. Not Protecting Bird Feeders
There are many forms of wildlife that will raid feeders before birds can even get to the seed. Raccoons, deer, squirrels, rats, and even bears will snack at unprotected bird feeders. At the same time, birds who do eat at unprotected feeders, their senses dulled by feeding, are vulnerably exposed to predators.
9. Not Cleaning Feeders
It is a mistake to assume that wild birds aren't picky about clean feeders. A dirty feeder can become clogged, and wet or spoiled seed can transmit diseases to backyard birds which can then spread to an entire neighborhood flock. Dirty feeders are also more susceptible to damage and wear, making them less useful over time.
10. Storing Seed Carelessly
Birdseed does have a long shelf life, but only if stored properly. Seed that isn't stored well can spoil and be invaded by pests such as mice, packrats, or moths. As seed gets old and dries out, it also is less nutritious and will not attract as many birds.
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