Attracting birds Birds

National Bird-Feeding Month

Photo: elenathewise, depositphotos

By Larry Hodgson  

Did you know that February is National Bird-Feeding Month?

Well, at least it is in the United States, where the month was officially so proclaimed in 1994 by the National Bird-Feeding Society. But I figure gardeners around the world can share such a wonderful concept, which also happens to correspond, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, to the most difficult time of the year for backyard birds.

By February, birds have often managed to burn off much of the extra fat they stored up the previous summer and fall in view of the winter and are struggling to find enough to keep themselves alive. A bird feeder or two or three in your home garden can make a huge difference in their survival.

With that in mind, here are some tips on feeding birds from the National Bird-Feeding Society:  

Top Ten Bird Feeding Tips

Couple with toddler inspecting backyard bird feeder.
Bird feeding can be a family affair. Photo: hetmanstock, depositphotos

1. Bird feeding is for people who love watching birds—Always place your bird feeders in places where you can readily and frequently see the birds you are feeding.

2. Start with the basics—Black-oil sunflower in a tubular feeder is a very effective combination for attracting a large number of birds to your yard.

3. Attract more species by adding additional types of feeders and seed—Try nyjer (thistle) in a tube feeder, and mixtures of black-oil sunflower, hulled sunflower and whole peanuts in hopper and platform feeders.

4. Don’t forget about alternative foods and water—Suet, fruits, mealworms, nectar and water may attract species of birds not found at traditional offerings.

5. The bird species in your yard change with season of the year— The birds visiting your feeders in summer may be very different than those in winter. Provide the feeders and food best suited to your seasonal suite of birds.

6. Make your yard bird-friendly—Provide birds with habitat, food, water and nest boxes so birds will use your yard year-round. Bird feeders near larger trees and shrubs often have more bird visits.

7. Keep the birds safe—Reduce window collisions, keep birds safe from outdoor cats and clean your feeders. Move feeders to within 3 feet (90 cm) of windows (they’ll therefore be flying slowly and unlikely to hurt themselves if there is a collision), remove hiding places of cats and keep feeders free of debris and contamination and filled only with seeds birds will eat.

8. Use binoculars and a backyard bird guide to learn more about your birds—Learning more about birds by using the tools of the birdwatcher provides you with a greater appreciation for your feathered friends.

9. Take your hobby to the next level—Explore your local, state/provincial and national parks and refuges. You will see bird species you can’t see in your yard!

10. Enjoy feeding the birds! —Contact the National Bird-Feeding Society anytime you have questions about bird feeding or for assistance in enhancing your bird feeding experience!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “National Bird-Feeding Month

  1. My parents have been feeding birds for decades and have never had a problem with rats or diseases. To prevent diseases, it is of course necessary to keep the feeders clean.
    I have been feeding birds since living in my current home without any problems. However, my feeder occasionally attracts birds of prey like a falcon looking to capture one of the smaller birds.

  2. My neighbor has multiple bird feeders she keeps going all year round. i love looking at all the birds feeding there including all the antics of the squirrels trying to get at the seeds. However, these feeders have attracted rats. This has created a problem not only for me but for other neighbors as well. Rats are very difficult to trap. they are smart. We cant leave rate killer bait for fear of killing other animals. So feeding birds is all nice and dandy but it can cause other terrible problems along the way.

  3. marianwhit

    Feeding birds in an unnatural way creates disease risks by bringing multiple species in close proximation that would not have happened in the wild before we substantially altered habitats and plant compositions (extensively replacing native plants with exotic species that escaped and we now refer to with the “nice” sounding euphemism of “naturalized” (they are anything but natural and the term is very misleading)). It is very hard to get research on this subject funded, because most bird conservation groups are funded by the lucrative 2.2 billion dollar bird seed companies, so they are reluctant to talk about the fact that bird diseases are spreading rapidly by a variety of means. In my survey of available research, there is really no substitute for native plants and habitat for wild birds. Furthermore, we need to consider that birds do not exist for our entertainment, but have important roles as dispersers of seeds and habitat regeneration, even forestry. This is a double edged sword, because if you are growing something like Japanese Barberry, burning bush, multiflora rose, exotic bush honeysuckle, etc., and that is all the birds have, the birds will eat and spread those, increasing Lyme disease risk, and costly forestry issues.

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