House Finch and Tufted Titmouse enjoying black oil sunflower seeds
Birdwatching and bird feeding are one of my favorite hobbies. For me, and millions of Americans, they are one in the same. Various reports claim that as many as 65 million people in the United States feed backyard birds. Our collective interest in wild birds and attracting them to our yards has spawned an industry that contributes billions of dollars toward the purchase of seed, feeders, baths, and other related items.
Nowadays, bird feeding products can be found in supermarkets, department stores, big box stores, specialty retailers, and a whole host of websites devoted specifically to bird feeding products. With so many items (foods, feeders, and other accessories) available for purchase, it can be both exciting and overwhelming for families and individuals to begin feeding birds and attain the entertainment and aesthetic qualities they expect.
How to get started:
An elaborate bird feeding station like those seen in magazines, online, or at your nearby nature center (read Westmoreland Sanctuary) is enviable, but often not the best way to start if you're just beginning your adventures in bird feeding. A collection of feeders, and the food to fill them, can be an expensive investment with no guarantee on its returns. This is when people become disappointed, unhappy, and upset, which leads to a bad experience and the desire to just give up.
Once you've established a regular crowd at your feeder, you may be ready to offer additional types of feeders and food. The variety of food and feeder styles often leads to an increase in the diversity of bird species visiting your feeding station. Simple additions to your new feeding station may include a different feeder offering the same black oil sunflower seeds. Larger species often prefer the hopper feeders because they are easier to perch on while feeding. Smaller species typically prefer the tube feeders which alleviates competition and bullying from the bigger birds.
Time to enjoy:
Now that you've got your new feeder(s) up and the birds have begun to visit, its time to enjoy the fruits of your "labor". The most enjoyable feeding stations are those that actually require very little labor. Bird feeding is supposed to be fun. Make it a fun activity by including others and watching the birds together.
Let young kids help fill the feeders and enjoy the sight of the birds and all of their activity. Allow indoor pets, like house cats, to observe the flurry of activity outside a window. My cat loves to watch the chickadees and titmice visit "her" feeder hung right outside her favorite window. Keep a list of the different species of birds that visit your feeders each week, month, or year. Even non-birdfeeder birds are often attracted to the feeding activity. Share and compare your yard list with someone else.
Learning to identify birds and understand some of their behaviors is easy to do in this "controlled" environment. Soon you'll be able to recognize the feeding behaviors and flock dynamics of the various species of birds that visit most often. If you chose to feed into the spring and summer, adult birds will bring their young to the feeders as well.
White-breasted Nuthatch (aka the upside-down bird) preparing to visit the suet log
For more information on starting your bird feeding station, check out the following resources:
- National Bird Feeding Society
- National Audubon Society's Audubon at Home
- All About Birds (from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
- Project Feeder Watch
-Adam Zorn, Naturalist