Many people associate bird feeding with using only bird seed; however, there is an entire world of bird feeding outside using strictly bird seed. If you have only used seed feeders in the past, the onset of fall and winter may be the time to explore some of the many alternatives to bird seed that may attract some new visitors to your backyard.
Our August newsletter highlighted suet as an excellent food for birds during the winter months. Suet is basically the dense white fat that collects around the kidneys and loins of cows. Many seed eating birds, such as chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches and insect eating birds, such as wrens, sapsuckers, warblers, catbirds, and orioles love suet. There are a variety of different suet feeders on the market and most will accommodate the standard sized suet block. Suet that is mixed with nuts and grains tends to attract the widest variety of birds. Pure suet tends to attract woodpeckers and many songbirds, but starlings and blackbirds tend not to be as attracted. To learn more about suet feeding, check out our August newsletter at http://www.bestnest.com/bestnest/nl/nl_030827.asp
Mealworms are a favorite food of bluebirds, and serve as a great food source for other insect-eating birds. Mealworms are a type of beetle larvae that are refrigerated to slow their metamorphosis to adult beetles. Mealworms are small and odorless and are not slimy (so the “gross-out” factor is minimal). They are available either live or roasted. Birds often prefer the live mealworms, but roasted mealworms do not need refrigeration and offer even higher protein and energy content than live mealworms. Mealworms can be used with nearly any platform, tray, or dish feeder, provided that they are not able to crawl out of the feeder. Mealworms are generally more expensive than seed, so you may not want to offer mealworms exclusively. A small window feeder with a protective roof is an excellent way to offer mealworms. When combined with a seed feeder, you should be able to get even the most selective birds to visit your backyard.
Another frequently overlooked food is fruit and jelly. Apples, oranges, berries, and even raisins are very popular with orioles, woodpeckers, catbirds, and tanagers. Large fruit is often cut into halves and used with a fruit feeder, which often features wooden pegs or “spikes” where the fruit halves can be placed. Smaller fruit may be used with various feeders: small window feeders, platform feeders, and even seed trays are perfect for feeding small fruit. Also, many nectar feeders for orioles feature holders for orange slices. Some fruit feeders also have an integrated jelly cup. Many of the same birds that like fruit also like jelly; orioles, tanagers, and catbirds are particularly fond of grape jelly. Remember that fruits and jellies may also attract unwanted guests, such as ants. You may want to consider using an ant guard to hang above the fruit feeder to prevent the ants from reaching the fruit or jelly below.
Finally, let’s not forget about nectar feeding birds. Hummingbirds and orioles are the two main species of birds attracted to nectar, though you may also see other birds at your nectar feeder. Nectar is basically sugar water, which allows the hummingbirds and orioles to maintain the high energy levels they need to catch insects. There is a wide variety of both hummingbird and oriole feeders on the market, so there is certainly one that will meet both your bird feeding needs and aesthetic preferences. For more information on hummingbirds, check out our hummingbird frequently asked questions list at http://www.bestnest.com/bestnest/lc/lc_hummingbird_faq.asp
. For more information on orioles, check out our July 2002 newsletter at http://www.bestnest.com/bestnest/nl/nl_020721.asp
Remember that for optimal bird feeding, these foods should be offered in conjunction with birdseed. This doesn’t mean just black oil sunflower seed; safflower seed, thistle, peanuts, etc. should be considered when offering seed. The wider the variety of foods that you offer, the greater the variety of birds will be attracted to your backyard. Experiment with different types of food and feeders. You will eventually find the best mix for drawing your favorite birds to your feeders and have a lot of fun in the process.