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Feeding wild birds is an interesting and varied hobby. Your efforts can be as simple as spreading seed on the ground or you can develop an elaborate system of feeders and waterers to attract a wider variety of species. It is an inexpensive hobby and one that everyone in the family can enjoy.

There is a wide selection of feeder types to consider in establishing your first feeding station. Different types of feeders require varying levels of care and attract different species. Consider several different types of feeders to maximize the variety of birds you attract. When purchasing a new feeder, start by selecting one that is easy to fill and easy to clean. Weather resistant cedar or redwood is a good choice for wooden feeders but other types of wood are acceptable. Avoid chemically treated lumber. The types of birds that show up at your feeder will also vary by your location and the time of year.

Ground feeding is the easiest and quickest way to get started. Spreading seed, cracked corn, bread crumbs, raisins and peanuts can attract a variety of species. The area should be dry and the ground feeding area rotated every several days unless it can be washed down. It is best not to add additional feed below hanging feeders. Do not put out more than one day supply of food. (Time and experience will help you establish the correct amount.)

Attracted Species:
Sparrows, doves, quail, towhees, flickers, thrashers, juncos, cardinals

Platform feeders are easy to maintain and attract a wide variety of species. Long, narrow platforms encourage birds to feed from the edge, limiting contamination of the station. A wide variety of seed, nuts, fruit, and egg shells can be used on a platform feeder.

Keep the platform clean and put out only a 1 or 2 day supply of food at a time. Some platform feeders have a second, often wire mesh platform below for catching hulls and uneaten seed.

Attracted Species:
Sparrows, finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blackbirds, wrens, cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, tanagers, orioles, cardinals

Hopper feeders can also attract a wide variety of birds. Hopper feeders are a snap to fill and the easy perching attracts ground feeders as well as many other species. A variety of seed can be dispensed in a hopper feeder which can hold several days to a couple of weeks supply of food.

Watch for mold growing in feed that has been in a hopper feeder for an extended period. Clean hopper feeders on a regular basis.

There are many different styles of hopper feeders. The one shown is typical but far from the only design.

Attracted Species:
Sparrows, finches, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blackbirds, cardinals, jays, grosbeaks, buntings, cardinals

Tube feeders are long cylinders with multiple perches and feeding ports. They provide several days supply of food and are usually easy to fill. Tube feeders usually attract finches, titmice, chickadees and pine siskins so it is best to select food suited for these species. The chart on the
"FEED" page can help you with the selection.

The tube feeder shown has a wire guard which allows smaller birds to pass through while preventing squirrels and larger, more aggressive birds from reaching the feed.

Attracted species:
Finches, titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers and pine siskins

Dome feeders are large globes that are somewhat selective in the birds they attract. They are not as attractive to house sparrows and house finches which can be a plus if these species tend to overrun your other feeders.

Attracted species:
Chickadees, titmice, goldfinches and nuthatches

Suet can be fed in several ways but a simple wire cage is easy to use and inexpensive to purchase. Suet cakes are readily available and fit into what has become almost a standard sized holder.

The suit feeder on the left, manufactured by Looker Products, has a wire cage for the suet cake and a "tail prop" extension to accommodate woodpeckers.

Attracted species:
Woodpeckers, chickadees, creepers, jays, nuthatches, wrens, bluebirds, mockingbirds

Nectar feeders are popular in areas with orioles and tanagers. Nectar mixes for orioles are available for easy mixing.

Attracted species:
Orioles and tanagers

Hummingbird feeders are available in many different styles. Select one that is easy to clean and fill. A simple mixture of sugar and water is all that is required; red food coloring is not recommended. The "FEED" page has the simple formula for making your own sugar water.

Attracted species:

Oranges, grape fruit, apples and raisins are all popular with the fruit eaters. Split oranges and grapefruit in half and hang on the side of a tree. Apples can be chopped up or placed in specially designed holders. Raisins can be chopped up and softened in water before feeding. Some feeders find that a serving of grape jelly is welcomed by certain species.

Attracted species:
Orioles, tanagers, woodpeckers, thrashers, bluebirds, mockingbirds

When Squirrels Attack
If squirrels are in your area, they will eventually find their way to your feeder. If you know they are in the area it is usually best to start your feeding with squirrel protection in mind.

If your feeder is mounted on a pole, you can place a squirrel guard on the pole to prevent squirrels from climbing the pole.

Try to place pole mounted feeders far enough away from tree limbs that the squirrels will not be able to jump directly to the feeder.

There are squirrel guards that can be placed above hanging feeders to prevent squirrels from moving in from the top. There is also a multitude of feeders that are designed to be "squirrel-proof." Some close when a relatively heavy squirrel lands on top of the feeder and others use a screen mesh to prevent the squirrels from having access to the feeder

Feeder Care
Keeping your feeders clean will help prevent the spread of avian diseases between birds. Keep the followingtips in mind when adding food or cleaning your feeders.

1. When refilling hopper feeders, tube feeders etc. make sure any remaining seed is free of mold or mildew. The seed should also be loose in the container, not compacted, so it can flow easily to the feeding areas.

2. Remove old seed or other feed from platform feeders on a regular basis. Try to limit platform feeders to a one day supply.

3. If mold or mildew becomes apparent or the feeders are becoming dirty or soiled they should be thoroughly cleaned and dried before refilling. Feeders can be soaked in a water/bleach solution (one part bleach to 9 parts water) and then scrubbed well. Dry the feeders well before refilling.

4. It is good practice to wash your hands after putting out seed and cleaning feeders.

5. Rake the area below fixed feeders on a regular basis. you may need to add mulch, bark chips, etc. under the feeders and keep the area raked to keep it clean.

Water - the Magic Attractant
In many areas the one element that you can add to your backyard to attract more birds is fresh water. Bird baths can be purchased from a variety of sources or you can make your own. Even small aluminum pie pans or some frozen dinner plates (designed to handle hot and cold) can work well in providing fresh water.

Adding a source of dripping water or a "mister" seems to attract even more birds. You can make your own dripper fairly easily by punching a small hole (thumb tack size) in a can or other container.

As with feeders, keep the bird bath clean and filled with fresh water.

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