How to Attract Birds to Your Yard

Attract different wild bird species to bring your backyard to life! Many birds in Canada depend on humans to provide them with safe habitats where they can find food and make nests. In return, they help reduce insects in your yard, sing beautiful birdsongs, and are delightful to watch! 

There are four key elements to attracting birds to your yard; our blog will teach you about each one!

Habitat: 

The ideal habitat for wild birds should be diverse in its plant life. Planting different kinds of flowers, trees, shrubs, and bushes that are native to your area will not only effectively attract native bird species, but it will also help to strengthen and preserve your local ecosystem. Ensuring there is plenty of greenery and cover in your backyard will provide birds with a safe place to explore. 

Feed:

One of the best ways to attract birds to your yard is to provide them with a food source. Different species prefer different types of feeders, so try placing a few different kinds around your yard to attract a variety of birds. Feeders should be placed about 10 feet from trees and greenery to allow them to quickly escape from predators if needed. Additionally, different species prefer feeding from different heights, so try hanging your feeders at different levels. Make sure to keep all feeders clean by scrubbing them with one part bleach to nine parts hot water at least once per month. The type of seed you use to fill your feeders will also determine which birds may stop by. Different species have their own unique nutritional requirements and, therefore, will be attracted to different types of seed to meet their dietary needs. Black oil sunflower seeds and suet blocks are great options for feeding your yard’s most incredible variety of birds. Ask the Experts at your local Feeds ‘n Needs about what type of feeder and bird seed you should use to attract a desired bird species!

Water:

Birds require access to water for bathing and hydration year-round, so adding a water source like a bird bath, pond, or fountain can make your backyard even more popular with bird visitors. Try placing a shallow bird bath in your backyard near an area with good, dense greenery in which birds can take cover. Change the water in your bird bath every few days in the summer, and consider investing in a heater or de-icer to keep the water from freezing in the winter. 

Nesting:

Encourage birds to stick around all year by providing safe places to nest in your backyard. Many birds will build nests in dense greenery that provides adequate shelter. However, some bird species, such as bluebirds and chickadees, prefer a more secure, warm shelter to nest. Install birdhouses or nesting boxes on posts or tree trunks in safe areas around your yard for these birds to make nests in. Ensure the entrance hole in your birdhouse is only big enough for the intended species to get through to prevent larger predatorial birds from entering. 

You can also provide birds with materials to nest with by filling a suet cage with organic materials like grass clippings, twigs, dried leaves and even pet hair and hanging it where birds will find it. These organic materials will eventually decompose, so you don’t have to worry about harming the environment!

If you want to start attracting wild birds to your yard, make Feeds ‘n Needs your one-stop destination to find all the essentials you’ll need! Check out our wide selection of quality bird feeders, accessories, and premium bird seeds in our wild bird center! You’ll find that feeding the birds is even more rewarding when you join our Wild Bird Seed Club and start earning 10$ off after every $200 you spend on bird seed. Stop into your local Feeds ‘n Needs and ask one of our Experts for details on the loyalty program and how you can get started feeding the birds!

Are you interested in learning more about wild birds? You may enjoy our other blogs!
Keeping Feeding Areas Clean and Maintained
How to Properly Store Bird Seed
Feeding Wild Birds in Winter

 

Attracting Hummingbirds
Attracting Hummingbirds

Tips on Attracting Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are fascinating little visitors, and when we start seeing them in our backyard, we know the warmer weather is approaching as they migrate north. Native flowers are the best source of nectar, but a nectar powder or concentrate can give them a needed energy boost to help them along their journey.

The most common hummingbirds seen in Atlantic Canada are the Ruby-throated and Rufous. Here are some tips on attracting hummingbirds to your backyard.

  1. Choose a Feeder: Make sure your feeder is easy to open and clean. Red feeders attract hummingbirds as the flowers pollinated by hummingbirds are often red. The port size is important when choosing a hummingbird feeder because if your ports are too small, they will not allow the nectar out and will be difficult for hummingbirds to use. Ports that are too large may leak and allow insects to get in. Consider adding bee guards, which snap over ports.
  2. Choose a Nectar: Hummingbirds love sweet formulas and will eat nectar and sugar water all season. At Feeds’n Needs, we have many different ready-to-use nectar options available, ranging from powder concentrates, liquid concentrates and instant concentrates. Never use honey in your feeders. Honey fosters bacterial and fungal growth and ferments faster than sugar water.
  3. Change Your Nectar Regularly: Scrub feeders with hot water and a clean bottle brush and refill every three days. If it is hot out, you should clean and refill your feeders more often. Discard the nectar and clean your feeder immediately if there are any signs of cloudy water or mould. Always rinse feeders in hot or boiling water before adding fresh nectar. A consistently clean feeder will ensure regular feedings.
  4. Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard: Plant native plants near your hummingbird feeder. Colourful plants, predominantly red, will attract hummingbirds as they have good colour vision.
  5. Feeder Placement: Hummingbirds prefer feeders near trees and shrubs to rest and observe their surroundings. Set feeders in areas protected from the wind. Make sure your feeder is safe from cats and other predators.
  6. When to Put Up and Take Down Feeders: Set up and fill your hummingbird feeder before the first spring hummingbirds arrive. Male hummingbirds arrive a few days before females and young birds.

Hummingbird season is here, and our stores have a large selection of feeders and supplies. Check out this interactive hummingbird migration map to track them this Spring! https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration-spring-2023-map.htm

 

Sources:

Fun Facts About Hummingbirds (kaytee.com)

Feeding and attracting hummingbirds – Birds Canada | Oiseaux Canada

Birds eating bird seed on ground in winter
Birds eating bird seed on ground in winter

Best Winter Bird Seed

Backyard birders should provide bird seed that is high in protein, oil, fat, and calories because higher quality food gives winter birds the most energy for keeping warm during colder weather. Offer a variety of food in different feeders to increase the size and diversity of your backyard visitors.

Keep an eye on your backyard winter flocks and adjust food supplies as needed. Limit mixes with fillers like red or golden millet, flax seed, and rape seed because winter birds consume the most nutrient rich food first, these fillers will most likely end up on the ground attracting unwelcomed critters.

Sunflower Seeds

Black Oil Sunflower Seed: Black oil sunflower seeds top the list for winter feeding.  These sunflower seeds attract a variety of bird species including black-headed grosbeaks, chickadees, house sparrows, northern flickers, and song sparrows. Unlike striped sunflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds have a thinner shell making them easier for smaller birds to break through them. These seeds are rich in oil and a high source of calories, making them a popular feeder option year-round.

Offer black oil sunflower seeds in hopper feeders, wide-mouthed tube feeders, broad mesh feeders, open trays, dishes, and platform feeders.

Striped Sunflower Seed: Striped sunflower seed are a great source of fat and oil.  The hulls on striped sunflowers are thicker and harder than black oil sunflower seed. This seed is popular with larger bird species such as cardinals, blue jays, and grackles.

Offer striped sunflower seeds in hopper feeders, wide-mouthed tube feeders, broad mesh feeders, open trays, dishes, and platform feeders.

Hulled Sunflower Seed: Hulled sunflower seed is popular with songbirds including finches, titmice, chickadees, sparrows, and cardinals. These seeds are rich in oil and a high source of calories, making them a popular feeder option year-round.

Offer hulled sunflower seeds in hopper feeders, wide-mouthed tube feeders, broad mesh feeders, open trays, dishes, and platform feeders.

Other Bird Seeds

Safflower Seed: Safflower seeds are white seeds and a favorite among doves and cardinals, though other birds will also feed on safflower seeds if sunflower seeds are not available. This seed is somewhat bitter tasting making it a good choice to detract unwanted critters and feeders with a pest problem.

Offer safflower seeds in hopper feeders, wide-mouthed tube feeders, broad mesh feeders, open trays, dishes, and platform feeders.

Nyjer Seed: Nyjer seed is rich in oil, fat, and protein. It is a favorite among small birds including siskins, goldfinches, redpolls, and juncos. Quail and larger finches often feed on the ground beneath Nyjer feeders, cleaning up spilled seed. Nyjer is more expensive compared to larger seed but has good economic value due to its lack of waste.

Nyjer (or Thistle) seed is very light and best offered in feeders with small openings. Narrow-mouthed tubes and metal or nylon mesh feeders are ideal.

Suet Blocks: Suet blocks are a great energy source for backyard birds particularly in colder temperatures. These densely packed fat and seed blocks give backyard birds extra energy reserves to keep them warm and refueled during cooler weather. There are a variety of birds from chickadees to woodpeckers that enjoy this satisfying snack.

Winter is a perfect time for hanging suet feeders as the colder temperatures keep suet from turning rancid. Suet blocks can be hung from trees (sometimes in onion bags or half inch hardware cloth basket) or in cage feeders.

Winter Treats

Cracked Corn: Cracked corn is popular for large ground-feeding birds such as starlings and grackles, as well as pheasants, wild turkeys, and ducks. It has a good source of oil and starch, is inexpensive and can be used to tempt larger birds away from more expensive seeds.

Offer cracked corn in a variety of ways including large platform or dish feeders, sprinkled directly on the ground, or mixed in with other seed.

White Proso Millet: White proso millet is a grass seed that is particularly popular with small birds. Millet is high in starch, protein, fiber, and fat, making it a great energy source for small birds in winter. It is particularly favored by towhees, sparrows, finches, juncos, and buntings among others.

Offer millet in small tube and hopper feeders, open platforms, or dish feeders.

Nuts: Nuts in their natural state are packed full of fat and protein, providing birds with plenty of energy to generate more body heat. Woodpeckers, blue jays, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, and finches are among some of the frequent flyers that will enjoy this tasty treat. Ensure nuts are deshelled and unsalted, as salt is highly toxic to wild birds. It is advisable to purchase nuts from a pet store as bird feed promoted for wild bird to guarantee nuts do not contain any harmful ingredients.

Offer nuts in open platforms or dish feeders, wire mesh feeder for peanuts, or sprinkled on the ground.

Related Articles

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Best Winter Bird Feeders
How To Properly Store Bird Seed
Keep Feeding Areas Clean and Maintained
Keep Backyard Birds Healthy in Winter

Feeding wild birds in winter
Feeding wild birds in winter

Feeding Wild Birds in Winter

Winter is a rewarding time for birders and one of the busiest for bird feeders due to the lack of natural food sources and colder temperatures. Here are some reasons to feed wild birds during the colder months:

Reliable food source: Besides helping northern migrants coming to the Maritimes replenish their energy resources, it also provides all wild birds with a reliable food source once natural sources deplete in colder weather.

Attracts the first winter birds: A stocked bird feeder can attract the first winter bird species and encourage them to remain nearby all winter. This helps wild birds remember reliable food source locations, so they return year after year. Overtime, consistent feeding will increase the size and diversity of your backyard visitors and become a trusted winter source. This also means birds don’t have far to go to replenish their energy.

Birds become reliant on feeders as food source: If deciding to feed birds in winter, it is important to stay consistent by keeping feeders clean and well stocked all season. Wild birds become reliant on these feeders, up to and including spring. This is an especially crucial time to keep feeding as many Maritime provinces experience ice storms creating a barrier for birds to acquire food and shelter.

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Blue carriage bird feeder
Blue carriage bird feeder

Keep Feeding Areas Clean and Maintained

It is important to keep bird feeders clean and maintained. In the Atlantic provinces, a parasite called Trichomonas Gallinae can infect birds, especially purple and gold finches. Bird droppings and other contaminants may also spread infectious bird diseases. A dirty feeder can harbor bacteria, mold, and other disease agents that can quickly contaminate hungry birds and spread to other wild populations. Fortunately, it is easy to clean bird feeders to ensure birds enjoy safe, clean feeding stations.

Clean your feeders about once every week or two, more often during times of heavy use, wet weather, if there have been reports of salmonella in your area, or you notice sick birds in your yard.

Cleaning Bird Feeders

Clean feeders attract more wild birds as fresh, clean seed is more appealing. For the cleanest, healthiest, and most attractive feeders:

  1. Choose easy-to-clean feeders. Feeders made of plastic, metal, glazed ceramic, and glass feeders are best. Wooden feeders can absorb oils and other remains, making them much more difficult to clean over time. However, if choosing a wood feeder look for cedar constructions.
  2. Clean regularly. All feeders should be thoroughly cleaned at least once per month. Busier feeders should be cleaned much more frequently. Hummingbird and oriole feeders should be cleaned each time they are refilled.
  3. Use proper cleaning solutions. Feeders can be sanitized with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. A mild solution of unscented dish soap is also effective to clean less popular bird feeders.

Steps for Cleaning Bird Feeders

  1. Soak feeders first. Submerge feeders in a utility sink, large basin, or bucket full of proper cleaning solutions. By soaking a dirty feeder debris is loosened making it easier to scrub clean.
  2. Clean all feeder parts thoroughly. For the best sanitation each feeder should be cleaned inside and out. This includes cleaning all feeding ports, perches, lids, platforms, reservoirs, and any other part where birds may perch or where feces may collect.
  3. Use proper equipment. Wear rubber gloves to avoid any contamination. Use stiff brushes to ensure thorough cleaning. Feeds’n Needs sell specialized brushes specifically designed for feeders, though a regular bottle brush can also be effective. An old toothbrush is also a great option for reaching smaller parts, feeding ports, and tight corners. And a stiff pipe cleaner is ideal for pulling through small holes.
  4. Rinse thoroughly. Submerge cleaned feeders in clean water for several seconds and then rinse to be sure all chemical residue is removed. Inspect to ensure there is no debris remaining.
  5. Dry feeder completely before refilling. Remaining moisture can lead to mold and mildew that can cause illness and spoiled seed.
  6. Sanitize all tools and equipment after cleaning feeders. Before putting tools and equipment away, clean them thoroughly and let them dry completely.

Clean Around Feeding Areas

It is essential to clean all nearby feeding areas where birds perch and congregate.

  1. Clear away old seed and hulls from beneath feeders.
  2. Remove any rotten or fallen fruit from trees and bushes where birds feed.
  3. Add mulch or gravel beneath feeders to cover bird droppings.
  4. Keep birdbaths and other perches clean.

Maintaining Feeders During Poor Weather Conditions

Despite taking necessary steps to protect feeders, they can still accumulate snow and ice in the worst weather. This also happens to be when birds rely on feeders the most. To maintain winter bird feeders:

  1. Winter Storms. Clean off feeders after every storm, or during storms, to give birds easy access to food. Check all feeding ports are clear and that seed can flow freely. Inspect and repair any damages and ensure they feeders are still fastened securely.
  2. Keep Feeders Full. Refill feeders frequently with the best winter foods that are higher in fat and calories creating a healthy and trusted food source for hungry birds.
  3. Keep Feeding Areas Accessible. Remove snow in ground-feeding areas to allow ground-dwellers like juncos and doves easy access to food.

Related Articles

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healthy birds
healthy birds

Keep Backyard Birds Healthy in Winter

When it comes to feeding the birds, keeping the backyard safe ensures a healthy, active, and diverse environment for feathered friends to enjoy.

  1. Periodically check feeders for damage, particularly after winter storms.
  2. Keep feeders clean, even in poor conditions, to prevent the spread of disease among wild birds.
  3. Keep birdbaths filled with fresh, clean water. Add a heater to the bath or a de-icing basin for winter use.

Things to Note When Installing Feeders

  1. Keep feeders a fair distance from windows (approximately 3 – 4 meters from glass).
  2. Use anti-collision stickers on the exterior of windows to prevent bird strikes.
  3. Choose locations that provide shelter from weather and predators, yet in view from inside your home.
  4. Clean feeders regularly and replace feed after wet weather conditions to avoid an unhealthy environment for birds.
  5. Keep feeders clear of debris so not to attract unwanted critters.

Help Birds During Severe Weather

It is not necessary to worry about how birds keep warm during winter. Birds have many adaptations that help them survive even the coldest days. However, mortality rates do rise during prolonged and severe weather conditions such as ice storms. Birders can help offset these rates by offering feathered friends high quality winter food, shelter from poor weather, and easy access to clean, fresh water. In turn, this strengthens bird’s ability to survive colder temperatures by enabling them to conserve precious energy reserves.

  1. Provide Quality Food and Stock Feeders Early. Offering quality winter foods high in fat and calories provide birds with the energy they use to generate body heat. On colder winter days, birds need to immediately replenish energy reserves used to stay warm overnight. Especially during cold snaps, fill feeders in the early morning to ensure birds don’t have far to go.
  2. Provide Clean, Fresh Water. Birds can melt snow to drink however this lowers their body temperature and uses valuable energy reserves used maintain body heat. Offering water in heated birdbaths or basins provide an especially helpful resource during challenging conditions.
  3. Offer Shelter. Give birds a way to escape poor weather conditions such as wind and snow by making a brush pile, keeping bird houses up and roosting boxes out. Long term consider planting evergreen trees, native trees, and bushes for natural protection against the elements.

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Busy backyard bird feeder
Busy backyard bird feeder

Best Winter Bird Feeders

Winter is a great time of year to feed the birds. Besides the large variety of bird species that live in the Maritimes year-round, northern migrants are arriving to spend the season in our milder climates. There are also some bird species that are more easily seen in cooler temperatures than in any other season. Adding a variety of feeders with different seed will attract an abundance of bird species. Separate larger specie feeders from smaller ones to allow smaller birds a chance to feed without being scared off by larger varieties.

Considerations for Winter Bird Feeders

Feeder Style: Consider designs that have a larger capacity and protected reservoirs to keep bird seed dry. Feeders with covers and with feeding stations underneath are ideal for a variety of birds. This also provides shelter for birds to feed. Select metal mesh or tube feeders for Nyjer seed.

Feeder Location: Hang feeders in areas that are more sheltered from winter elements such as closer to tree trunks, under covered patios or roof eaves. This will make them easier to refill and keep birds protected while they feed.

Protect Feeders From Pests: Birds are not the only hungry wildlife this time of year. To ward off unwanted visitors, take steps to squirrel-proof feeders and surround the area with cages or fences. Take feeders in at night if all else fails. Avoid excessive ground-feeding that can attract smaller pests.

Top Winter Bird Feeders

Tube Feeder: If you are going to put out just one bird feeder, a tube feeder is the way to go. Tubes keep seed clean, dry, prevent bird droppings from getting in the seed and reduce squirrel foraging. Perches on tube feeders are usually smaller attracting smaller birds and discouraging larger ones.

Hopper Feeder: A hopper or house feeder dispense seed into a tray at the bottom of the hopper aided by gravity. These feeders keep seed clean, dry, and readily available even in snowstorms. If you’re looking for a hopper feeder made of wood, weather-resistant cedar is a good choice.

Platform Feeder with Cover: Platform feeders attract a variety of birds due to their easy access to seed. For winter, place platform feeders where there is some shelter from the elements or opt for one that has a roof structure.

Bird droppings and wet weather can cause seed to spoil more so than other feeders. It is important to keep feeders clean on a regular basis, daily if possible. Replace seed every few days or immediately after wet weather to avoid an unhealthy environment for your feathered friends. Only fill enough for a few days’ worth to ensure seed doesn’t spoil due to unpredictable winter conditions.

Ground Feeding Table: This screen-bottomed tray sits a few inches off the ground and is easy to clean and disinfect. Select designs that have covers to prevent snow from accumulating over the seed and ones that are surrounded by wire mesh to keep out squirrels and large birds.

Place the feeder in an open location, at least 10 feet from the nearest shrub, to give birds a chance to flee in the event of predators. Ground feeders are especially favored by doves, juncos, sparrows, towhees, goldfinches, and cardinals. Only fill enough for a few days’ worth to ensure seed doesn’t spoil due to unpredictable winter conditions.

Suet Feeder: Winter is the perfect time for hanging suet because the cooler temperatures keep suet from spoiling. Place suet blocks in cage feeders during winter to help prevent moisture build up. Place in trees that provide some shelter from poor weather.

Nyjer Feeder: These feeders, also known as “Thistle Feeders”, are specifically designed to dispense ‘thistle’ seed. They feature tiny holes making seed available only to small-beaked birds. Select metal mesh designs or tube feeders as these styles are better for winter use.

Bird Houses & Roost Boxes: Though not exactly bird feeders, bird houses and roost boxes provide a place for birds to escape poor weather conditions and keeps them close to their reliable food source.

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Backyard Bird Ensthusiasts - Northern Shrike resting on branch
Backyard Bird Ensthusiasts - Northern Shrike resting on branch

Winter Backyard Bird Enthusiasts

From the beginning of December to the end of February it is an exciting time for backyard bird enthusiasts and bird watchers alike. It’s a time when most migratory birds and passing migrants have flown south, and more northern migrants arrive to spend the season in milder temperatures. There are also some bird species that live in the Maritimes year-round that are more easily seen in colder temperatures than in any other season.

This seasonal transition makes for an especially rewarding time for backyard bird enthusiasts, because these winter birds are only seen during colder months and welcome the opportunity to find an easy snack at feeders.

As the colder weather approaches, prepare your backyard for winter birds by:

  1. Inspecting and cleaning feeders.
  2. Cleaning the surrounding area where birds perch and feed.
  3. Switching to winter friendly bird feeders.
  4. Switching to winter bird seed that is higher in oil and calories.
  5. Providing a fresh water source.
  6. Adding windbreaks and other shelters for birds to escape poor weather.

For a more detailed look at each of these tips, see our related articles below.

Related Articles

Feeding Wild Birds in Winter
Best Winter Bird Feeders
Best Winter Bird Seed
How To Properly Store Bird Seed
Keep Feeding Areas Clean and Maintained
Keep Backyard Birds Healthy in Winter

Properly store bird seed
Properly store bird seed

How to Properly Store Bird Seed

Bird seed can spoil, so it is important to know how to store bird seed properly. Clumps indicate moisture and should not be used. Infestations of rodents or insects, foul-smells, or mold growth are all telltale signs that bird seed has gone bad and should be discarded immediately. Light coloration may indicate old seed or diminished nutrients and it is advisable to replace it.

Knowing how to properly store bird seed can make all the difference in how long it stays fresh. Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Remove unused bird seed from its original packaging and place in an airtight plastic container or bin with a secure lid.
  2. Store in a cool, dry area away from harmful chemicals and pesticides.
  3. Label the type of bird seed and date of purchase.
  4. Use your oldest seed first and buy in moderation, enough for use up to a month.
  5. Check for signs of damage or other indications of spoilage before using.
  6. Filling feeders for only a few days’ worth of seed at a time, ensures less spoilage due to wet weather conditions.
  7. Clean feeders regularly to ensure a healthy and safe environment for birds to feed.