Educational Resources

Bird Feeding

Q: In the spring, should I stop feeding the birds so they will not depend on me for food?

Birds will find a food source if you stop feeding them; however, spring is the time when birds are nesting and can use the food you supply. Most seed plants and berry bushes have not grown to be able to provide food for birds, so your food could be important for the birds. Calcium suet dough and water are beneficial this time of year in addition to the regular seed and seed blends you provide.

Q: I am going on vacation. Should I stop feeding the birds so they do not get used to feeding and then find no food while I am on vacation?

You do not need to stop feeding the birds because you on going on vacation. While it would be nice for someone to fill your feeders while you are gone, it is not a necessity. The birds will not hang around your feeder for days waiting for you to fill it. They will find food at other feeders. You may find it harder to attract them back if you leave for a long time period.

Q: I put out my finch feeder and no birds are using it. What am I doing wrong?

Sometimes finches are picky eaters. It may take them a while to get used to coming to your new finch feeder. Check the seed in the tube by shaking it every week for freshness and to be sure that the seed is not getting moist. If the seed is getting moist or a month or two has passed, replace the seed. Be patient, it is worth the wait!

Q: What can I put out to specifically attract the titmice and nuthatches?

Titmice and nuthatches can be attracted with oil sunflower feeders, suet feeders and peanut feeders. Peanut feeders are especially attractive to titmice and nuthatches, and the WBU peanut feeder is so easy to fill and clean.

Q: I put out a blend of seed that the birds do not seem to like. What am I doing wrong?

You may want to look at the type of seed blend you are using. If it has a high amount of filler or cereal grains, the birds will kick those to the ground looking for seeds like oil sunflower. A blend high in oil sunflower is best for tube feeders. Seed blends with some millet works well for wood feeders and allows some seed to fall to the ground for ground eating birds.

Q: How can I protect the birds at my feeder from cats and hawks?

You can situate your feeders so they are near enough to trees, shrubs or places like wood piles or stone walls so the birds can fly into these areas to escape danger. You do not want to place the feeders too close to these areas because the cat may hide in them.

Q: I see the chickadees and nuthatches come to the feeder, push the seeds around, pick up one, drop it and then fly off with a different seed. What are they doing?

The birds are choosing the best seed to eat. Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches weigh seeds. According to a study (published in The Auk vol. 114 1997) by members of the University of Vermont’s biology department Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches take oil sunflower seeds selectively and discriminate between seeds based on heft. Throughout the study, the chickadees and nuthatches chose the heavier and bigger seeds instead of the lighter seeds. This is probably because the birds use energy to fly away with the seed, so they choose the seed that gives them the most return for their effort.

You might consider feeding a blend of bird seed high in oil sunflower content and putting perches near your feeders so you can watch the birds break open the seeds and eat them.

Q: How do I keep my yard from being a mess from feeding the birds?

There are several things you can do. You can put a tray underneath most feeders to catch the seed that falls from the feeders, but be aware that this tray can become a place where birds and others can gather to eat. You also can try using a different type of seed in your feeder. Sunflower chips or a “no-mess” blend of seeds (which contains no hulls) can help because the hulls are usually what cause most of the mess. In addition, look at the type of birds you have in your yard and make sure you are feeding them what they like to eat. If your yard has birds that love sunflower seeds and you’re feeding mostly millet, you’ll likely have a mess because the birds don’t want the millet and won’t eat it.

Another idea: You can try mulching the area around your feeders and periodically removing the mulch and replacing it with fresh mulch.

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