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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Birdfeeding Tips & Tricks

Bird Feeding TipsAttracting birds to your yard and feeding them is lots of fun. In the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac, freelancer Glenn Morris offers some great tips and ideas on how to attract these feathered friends to your backyard. Here are a few hints from the article:

Seasonal Comings and Goings

Our suburban landscape of fragmented woodlands and landscaped yards is a man-built habitat that favors some birds more than others. Northern cardinals, multiple sparrows and assorted finches thrive in neighborhoods. So, too, do raucous blue jays and glib mockingbirds.

Wherever you live–north or south, suburb or farm, forest or field– some birds stay in one place and some move around with the seasons. No surprise, since nearly 75% of the more than 800 species of birds that nest in North America exhibit some migratory behavior. By providing food and cover, you can establish a fairly steady population of avian visitors. Some may be encouraged to stay that otherwise would not.

For example, homeowners that feed the northern cardinal may be encouraging it to expand its range farther north. Because the cardinal is a ground feeder, supplemental food may be offsetting the reduction in natural food caused by prolonged snow cover.

The More You Feed, the More You See

Year-round feeding provides a chance to see all the players: the summer birds before they migrate, and the winter birds that hang around. If you only feed in winter, natural migration will whittle down the list of birds at leaf fall, particularly where winters are harsh. The winter holdovers in the Midwest and Northeast are similar.

Migration brings the Southern States more birds in winter. The rose-breasted grosbeak and the cedar waxwing are two birds frequently seen in the South during winter, but not in other seasons. Feeders north and south alike are likely to have “regulars,” those birds that appear whenever seed fills the feeder or spills onto the ground. Among these are:

Remember, a Bird Feeder Is Serendipity

There’s a lot of downtime (pardon the pun) to feeding birds. The novelty wanes as regulars become routine. That’s when something, like an iridescent indigo bunting or a drop-dead-gorgeous orange and black Baltimore oriole, comes along “I spotted her midday and ran outside with half an orange,” recalled birdwatcher Bryan Morris, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Orioles love oranges, but they like grape jelly more. Morris switched and the birds became regulars. “They pop up like third graders–jelly all over their beak,” he added.

Unexpected arrivals are the blessing of feeding birds and the reason why checking the feeder frequently becomes a habit.

Bird Feeder Basics

Feeders: Choose a tube feeder with side perches and a base tray or a squirrel-resistant hopper feeder. Finch feeders have tiny openings suited for nyjer seed, finches’ preferred food. Suet feeders are wire baskets that hold a cake of suet. Hummingbird feeders are containers for sugar water, with small openings for the bird’s beak.

Placement: Locate feeders where you can see them. To minimize bird and window collisions, place feeders within 3 feet of, or more than 30 feet beyond windows. Be sure they are at least 6 to 8 feet from trees or tall shrubbery. Mount or suspend feeders a minimum of five feet above the ground on poles with squirrel baffles.

What to Feed: Black oil sunflower seeds and white millet are the best for birds. Use nyjer seed in finch feeders. Commercial suet cakes of rendered beef fat work fine. (Squirrels avoid red pepper suet, but it does not bother birds.)

For more tips on attracting birds to your backyard, read the rest of this article in the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac.

8 comments

1 Glenn Morris { 11.14.10 at 10:10 am }

Good Morning Barb,
What a fine thing to see in November in Illinois (look out! snow may be on your way).
Oriole’s native range extends into Canada and so it is no surprise to see them in your state, but it’s a delightful occasion to see them this late. Thanks for sharing your find!
Glenn Morris

2 Barb { 11.13.10 at 7:20 pm }

We just saw a pair of Orioles in our pine trees today in Elizabeth, IL. I’ve never seen them here this late. (Nov. 13, 2010)

3 Andrea { 09.21.10 at 10:12 pm }

I have orioles every spring/early summer, I put out oranges under the tulip tree they love and they never eat the oranges!!! Haven’t tried the grape jelly.

4 Glenn Morris { 09.13.10 at 7:41 am }

Hi Lynette,
Go ahead and give Bette’s economical do-it-yourself idea a try. Anything sugary will bring ants and bees–these creatures are just a part of nature. It would be wise to locate that tuna can of grape jelly AWAY from the house so the flying and crawling visitors don’t come to see you too! My hummingbirds don’t seem to mind the ants that crawl into the feeder, but they are more mindful of the bees. My guess is the orioles wouldn’t mind a few guests at the jelly trough.

5 Lynette { 09.12.10 at 11:54 pm }

The tuna can feeder…wouldn’t that be filled up with ants? Or would the birds enjoy the ants, too? If they got the jelly before the ants ate it all. I’d like to try it, but would like to know about this first.
Thank you

6 Bette { 09.10.10 at 5:23 pm }

I now have 2 “store bought” oriole feeders, but before that I poked a few nail holes in a cleaned out tuna can, for drainage, and nailed it to a fence post and filled it up with grape jelly. I have so many orioles that they eat a 2# jar of grape jelly every 2 to 3 days! I live in NW Missouri and they left my area for the winter the last of August. I miss their brillant color & sweet songs, but know they’ll be back in the Spring!

7 mgm { 09.08.10 at 10:01 am }

A shallow (1/4-1/2 cup) glass dish–I tried it myself this year, but it was not to be.
Baltimore Orioles will migrate to warmer climates as freezing temperatures and snow cover make feeding difficult. Most likely, the birds will depart Northern Illinois for the Gulf coast or semi-tropical settings further south.

8 bec { 09.08.10 at 9:26 am }

so what do you put grape jelly in to attract those orioles? do they stay the winter in Northern illinois or migrate? any comments?

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