It’s fun. Birds are fascinating creatures. Seen up close, you can study their plumage, eating habits, and interesting behaviors. You can even start to identify individuals.

If you feed birds, you have plenty of company.

A U.S. Fish ad Wildlife Service survey shows that over 60 million people in the United States feed wild birds. That adds up to a lot of birdseed-and a lot of bird feeders.

Participants in Product FeederWatch, an annual survey of feeder birds administered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, have reported an average of 6.5 feeders in their backyards.

In fact, the wild bird feeder industry has boomed since the 1980s. Americans rank birdwatching as one of the most popular ways to spend their precious spare time.

What to feed?

The best all-round bird attractant seems to be black-oil sunflower seed. But you might want to experiment. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Seed Preference Test showed that different birds in different parts of the country like different seeds.

Buy a bag of mixed seed and see what the birds go for.

You might also find a Bird Feeding Chart to be a handy resource.

Try plain suet or suet mixes, but, don’t offer suet in hot weather unless you can be assured it won’t turn rancid.

Some commercial suet cakes are rendered in such a way that they can withstand extreme heat.

Try a variety of fruits. For example, robins might go for plumped-up raisins, that is, raisins that have been soaked in water and softened up. Orioles are particularly fond of orange slices.

Again, experiment.

A couple of tips

  • Birdseed cost less when purchased in large quantities.
  • Store seed in metal containers to protect them from rodents
  • Save seed during the year from squash, melons, and pumpkins - air dry them thoroughly
  • Chop some seeds up in a food processor for small birds

Types of feeders

  • Tray or platform feeders with or without “rooftops”
  • Hanging tube feeders
  • Suet feeders

Hint: Scan through the web site pages to learn more about different types of feeders.

Go visit a local hardware store, major discount store, or wild bird feeding store and study the feeders first hand.

Think about your bird feeding site. What are your needs?

What are the needs of the type of birds do you want to attract?

If you want a wide variety of birds, choose a platform feeder. If you want just finches or very small, agile birds like chickadees, choose a tube feeder with small portals.

Another Hint: Make sure the feeders you select are easy to assemble if assembly is needed and easy to fill.

If you live in a cold, snowy climate, think about how it would be to fill your feeders in subzero temperatures with snow on the ground

Keep those feeders clean!

Be sure to clean your feeders on a regular basis, once or twice a month or more frequently if you see detritus building up around the food openings. Seed hulls and other refuse can get wet and moldy and harbor bacteria.

To clean your feeder, wear gloves and then scrub it in soap and hot water. Finish the cleansing with a soak in bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water).

Maintain the area around your feeder, too. Rake the area underneath your feeder to remove droppings and old, moldy seed. And do not serve moldy or damp seeds to your birds.

Hint: Dry feeders thoroughly before putting back for your avian visitors.

And finally, enjoy getting to know the bird around your home! Threat them well. They’ll teach you a lot and give you priceless hours of enjoyment.