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For many, their first interest in birds came from viewing a few common species in their backyard. The beautiful cardinal, the aggressive blue jay, a robin in the front yard or the noisy woodpecker can create that first spark.

For those just starting to feed birds here are a few tips that will help. Select from the list on the left for more detailed information on feeder types and feed.

1. Many people feed birds only in the winter but feeding all year round can be helpful to the birds This is especially true during the nesting season when an extra source of food is always welcome.

2. It may take several days to 2 weeks or more for birds to locate your feeder and start coming to it regularly. You may find it difficult to attract birds to your feeder if you start in the late spring or early summer when the wild food supply is at its peak.

3. Sunflower seed is the best all around seed to use and black oil is probably the best sunflower seed. Until you learn more, avoid the seed mixes that you find at grocery stores and discount stores. Much of the seed in the mix may not be suitable for the birds in your area. Visit the Bird Feed section for more information on various types of bird feed and where to buy feed.

5. There are many different kinds of feeders. You can make your own or purchase one of the many different types available. Some feeders are more suited for one species over another and some are more for decoration than actual use.

A simple platform feeder is a good way to start and attracts a variety of different species. A long narrow platform can accommodate several birds at once and minimizes contamination of the feeding area. Place only as much seed on the platform as is being consumed in a day or two. A platform feeder can be placed low, near the ground or higher on a pole or tree.

6. Check your feeder regularly to be sure it is clean. Clean and wash the feeder if signs of mold or mildew are found on the feeder or in the feed. (A mix of 9 parts water and one part bleach works well. Soak and scrub well. The feeder should dry completely before returning to service.)

7. If there are a lot of trees nearby, be prepared to protect the feeder from squirrel attacks. Squirrels can be fun to watch but they eat a lot of bird feed in a short time. Plan on using a squirrel guard of some kind if you anticipate problems. The guide to bird feeders provides information and sources on a variety of feeders, including ways to combat squirrels.

Once started you'll find observing the birds that come to your feeder can become a fascinating hobby. You'll see different birds at different times of the year. Each season's young can offer something new and you never know when a stranger might appear.

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