I have been feeding wild birds for as long as I can remember. When I was a youngster my mom taught me how to identify different birds when they visited our feeders. Occasionally we would have some visitors that we did not recognize, and we would consult our bird guide to identify the birds.
While feeding wild birds is an enjoyable pastime, it has also become an important activity due to the decline of natural food sources from suburban development. By providing food, shelter, and water for birds in our yards, we can help offset some of the losses of food and habitat caused by development.
One of the easiest ways to attract and feed wild birds is to put a bird feeder in the yard. A feeder can be as simple as an open tray or as elaborate as your budget allows.
The Wild Bird Center in Severna Park is a great place to shop for bird feeders and their knowledgeable staff can help you choose a feeder that is appropriate for your yard. They can also help in selecting the proper seed to feed the birds that inhabit your yard.
For years I would buy a common bird seed mixture that would attract all types of birds including starlings. Unfortunately, starlings will knock all the seeds from a feeder in order to find the type of seed that they prefer to eat.
The folks at The Wild Bird Center told me that to prevent the starlings from emptying my feeder in a matter of minutes, I needed to replace the seed mix with safflower seed which starlings do not like to eat. Their advice worked, and I haven’t had a problem with starlings since I switched seeds.
Maintaining a clean bird feeder is very important to help wild birds stay healthy. According to the Cornell University Ornithology Lab it is important to regularly clean bird feeders to reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning that can occur from feed becoming wet or tainted with bird droppings.
To prevent the spread of disease they recommend washing your feeder, soaking it in a mix of one part bleach to nine parts of water, and then allowing the feeder to dry thoroughly before refilling it with seed.
In addition to providing birds with food they also need a source for clean water for drinking and bathing. Bird baths and water dishes come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are made to accommodate the needs of different size birds. Small heater units are available to keep your bird bath or water dish free of ice during winter so birds can get the water they need to survive.
As with bird feeders, bird baths and water dishes need to be cleaned regularly to prevent disease. The bleach and water soak works well, but be sure to cover the bird bath or water dish while soaking it clean, and rinse it with plenty of fresh water before refilling it.
Finally, using native plants, shrubs, and trees when landscaping your yard, improves the habitat for wild birds by providing them with shelter for nesting and a food source. Birdzilla.com has a listing of native plants that can be used to develop wild bird habitat in our yards.