Once you begin feeding birds, it is hard to stop. They bring life into the garden with their uplifting song. Before you know it you will want to identify each visiting bird. There are different types of birdfeeders for different types of birds. Birdfeeders also require some maintenance. The type of seed you use will determine the type of birds that will visit.
Bird feeders are designed for different purposes. The majority can carry most types of seed. Finch feeders are different and are designed for very small seed and have very small holes. A good feeder should be easy to fill and clean. A roof on a house has an overhang to repel water, and a bird feeder roof should have one too. There should be adequate places for birds to perch while they are eating. Your birdhouse should also come apart easily for cleaning. There is the aesthetic value too; birdhouses can be considered garden art and should be attractive.
Types of Birdseed
The most common and inexpensive birdseed is a mixed bag, usually called wild birdseed. This is acceptable if all of the types of seed are eaten. If the birds visiting your feeders skip over certain seeds, then it is not a bargain. The largest variety of birds go for the black oil sunflower seed. This seed is more expensive, but they will eat all of it. The best way to keep down the cost is to buy birdseed in 25- or even 40-lb. bags. Finches eat niger thistle seed, which is the most expensive yet. This seed can be mixed with flaxseed to reduce the cost. The enjoyment you will receive from watching the birds is worth the price.
Fruit and Suet
Not all birds eat seed. Some will only visit if you put out fruit. The tray-type feeders work best for these birds. Dried fruit is better since it will not spoil so quickly. Put out only enough fresh fruit for one day at a time. Fruit can also be mixed with suet in the winter. Suet cakes can also be placed in tray feeders. Suet is a replacement for insect-eating birds. It will give them energy to help keep them warm.
Squirrels and other wildlife will visit your feeders. Some gardeners enjoy their antics just as much as they do the birds. If you choose to discourage them, buy feeders designed to be squirrel proof. Another strategy is to have a feeder for the squirrels. You can buy inexpensive squirrel food that is a mixture of seed, cracked corn and nuts. If larger birds are bullying the small ones, have open tray-type feeders for the large birds and smaller feeders with smaller openings for the little visitors.
During dry periods all you need to do is shake off the chaff and brush off the outside of the feeder. During rainy weather, seed can become wet and moldy. When this happens, soak your feeder in mild soapy water. Use a toothbrush to get into any small areas. If this is not enough, soak the feeder in warm water with a small amount of bleach or vinegar. Allow your feeders to dry thoroughly before returning them outdoors.