Birds are known for their love of bird food, but did you know there’s a whole world of other food options out there for our feathered friends to enjoy? In fact, a variety of kitchen scraps and plant-based items can provide the essential nutrients that birds need to thrive. By understanding and offering different food choices to birds, you can not only attract a more diverse assortment of avian visitors to your backyard but also help support their nutritional needs.
From seeds and nuts to fruits and vegetables, many of the foods we consume can safely and healthily be offered to birds. There’s even an opportunity to get creative with alternative food sources and feeding options throughout the different seasons. This article will explore some of these diverse food choices and reveal how the right bird feeders can make all the difference in attracting various bird species to your yard.
- A variety of seeds, nuts, and fruits can be offered to birds as nutritious alternatives to commercial bird food.
- Changing food offerings depending on the season can attract different bird species and support their specific nutritional needs.
- Choosing the appropriate bird feeder types can enhance birds’ accessibility to alternative food sources and increase backyard avian diversity.
Seed and Nut Options for Birds
There are various types of seeds and nuts that can be a nutritional addition to wild birds’ diet. In this section, we’ll explore some popular seed and nut options for feeding birds, namely Sunflower Seeds, Peanuts, Safflower Seeds, and Pumpkin Seeds.
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Sunflower seeds are an excellent choice for feeding birds, as they attract a wide variety of species, including finches, chickadees, nuthatches, grosbeaks, northern cardinals, blue jays, and even some woodpeckers1. They can be offered in or out of the shell, depending on the preferences of the birds you’d like to attract.
Peanuts are a popular choice among backyard bird enthusiasts, as they provide a good source of protein and fat for birds2. Shelled peanuts can be placed in mesh feeders to make it easy for birds to access them. Some bird species that enjoy peanuts include woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, and several types of sparrows.
Safflower seeds are another option to consider when feeding birds. These seeds are rich in oil and can attract a variety of bird species, including cardinals, finches, and grosbeaks3. One advantage of safflower seeds is that they are not favored by squirrels and blackbirds, making them an excellent choice if you want to deter these unwanted visitors from your bird feeders.
Roasted pumpkin seeds can be a tasty and nutritious treat for birds like northern cardinals, evening grosbeaks, red-breasted nuthatches, and tufted titmice4. Make sure to roast the seeds without salt or seasonings, as these additives can be harmful to birds. Once roasted, pumpkin seeds can be placed in feeders or scattered on the ground for ground-feeding bird species to enjoy.
Remember, always ensure that you’re providing fresh seeds and nuts for your backyard birds, as stale or spoiled food can be harmful to their health. By offering these seed and nut options in your backyard feeders, you’ll be providing a natural source of nutrition and encouraging a diverse array of bird species to visit your outdoor space.
Fruits Birds Can Enjoy
Birds can enjoy a variety of fruits besides bird food, and incorporating these fruits into your bird-feeding routine can attract a wide range of bird species to your backyard. In this section, we will discuss some popular fruits that are safe for birds to eat.
Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are safe and enjoyable for birds to eat. These small fruits are easy for birds to pick up and consume, making them a convenient option for backyard bird feeders. Make sure to provide fresh berries as moldy ones can be harmful to birds.
Apples are another fruit that attracts many birds, such as mocking jays, cardinals, and grosbeaks. According to Bird Watching USA, both domestic apples and crabapples can be enjoyed by birds. Be sure to remove the core and seeds, as they can be toxic.
Bananas are soft, sweet, and can be easily consumed by birds. They’re an excellent source of nutrients and can also attract a variety of bird species. Make sure to remove the peel before offering it to the birds, as it can be difficult for them to eat.
Grapes are a favorite among many bird species, including robins and bluebirds. They provide essential nutrients and can be quickly consumed by birds due to their small size. Keep in mind to serve fresh grapes and avoid giving raisins, as they can be harmful to certain birds.
Oranges are a popular fruit choice for attracting birds like orioles and tanagers. The citrus flavor and bright color make them appealing to a variety of bird species. Simply cut an orange in half and hang it from a tree branch or place it on a bird feeder for the birds to enjoy.
Pears are another fruit that can be enjoyed by birds. They are soft, sweet, and provide essential nutrients while attracting different bird species. To feed pears to birds, cut them into small pieces, and remove the core and seeds.
Melons, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, are a great fruit option for birds. They are filled with hydrating water content and nutrients. According to Birds and Blooms, birds like northern cardinals, evening grosbeaks, and tufted titmice enjoy eating melon seeds. You can roast seeds before offering them to the birds, without adding salt or seasonings.
Beyond the Feeders: Alternative Foods for Birds
Mealworms are an excellent and protein-rich food for birds. Many insectivorous and omnivorous birds will appreciate this easily digestible source of nutrition. Dried or live mealworms can be provided in a shallow dish or a specialized feeder to minimize waste.
Insects are a natural food source for many wild birds. Homeowners can promote insect populations by creating safe habitats, such as log piles, native plants, and insect hotels. Insects such as beetles, caterpillars, and ants provide essential nutrients, including fats and proteins, for various bird species.
Some kitchen scraps can be offered to birds as treats, providing them with an additional source of nutrition. Items like cooked pasta, rice, bread, and cereal are suitable, as long as they are plain and without heavy sauces, spices, or cheeses. Fruits, such as apples, raisins, and melon, can be chopped into small pieces and provided for fruit-eating birds.
Peanut butter is a high-energy food that can be fed to birds, especially in colder months when they require more calories to maintain their body temperature. It is essential to use unsalted and natural peanut butter to avoid introducing harmful levels of sodium. You can spread peanut butter on tree trunks, pine cones, or specially designed feeders.
Small pieces of mild cheese, such as cheddar or mozzarella, can be an occasional treat for birds. Cheese is rich in protein and calcium and can help in supporting their growth, reproduction, and bone health. Be cautious not to provide moldy cheese, as it may harm the birds.
Crushed and baked eggshells are an excellent source of calcium for nesting birds, supporting egg-laying and preventing eggshell thinning. To prepare eggshells for birds, rinse and dry them, bake for 10-15 minutes at 250°F, and then crush them into small pieces. You can mix eggshells with birdseed or offer them separately in a shallow dish.
Nectar can be provided for nectar-feeding birds, such as hummingbirds, with the help of a nectar feeder. A homemade nectar solution can be prepared by mixing four parts water and one part plain white sugar, without using red dye or artificial sweeteners. Hang the nectar feeder in a shaded area and clean it regularly to prevent fermentation and mold growth.
Feeding Birds in Different Seasons
Winter Feeding Needs
During the winter months, it’s essential to provide birds with high-energy foods to help them survive the cold weather. One of the most popular options is black oil sunflower seeds, which attract a variety of bird species, such as cardinals, woodpeckers, and finches. Other nutritious winter food choices include:
- Cracked corn
- Peanuts or peanut butter
- Suet (a high-fat food made from animal fat)
- Calcium-rich foods like crushed eggshells
In addition, keep a clean and unfrozen water source available for birds to drink and bathe.
Summer Diet Options
In summer, birds have more natural food sources, but you can still offer them some tasty treats to supplement their diet and attract various species to your backyard. Some favorite summer foods for birds include:
- Fresh fruit, such as berries and apple slices
- Dried mealworms, which appeal to insect-eating birds like wrens and woodpeckers
- Nectar for hummingbirds
- Cooked rice, peas, and small pieces of pasta for doves and sparrows
Birds also require water in summer, so maintaining a birdbath or another water source is an essential part of attracting birds to your yard. Additionally, including the right birdseed and feeders can encourage various species to visit your backyard, ultimately creating a thriving and diverse bird community.
Remember to always keep bird feeders and water sources clean to prevent the spread of disease and ensure a hygienic environment for our feathered friends.
Types of Bird Feeders and Their Benefits
There are various bird feeders available that cater to the different needs and preferences of our backyard feathered friends. These feeders not only provide an alternative to standard bird food but also offer other advantages. In this section, we will discuss the benefits of Platform Feeders, Tube Feeders, and Suet Feeders.
Platform feeders, also known as tray or ground-feeders, are simple flat surfaces that can be placed on the ground or elevated using a pole. These feeders can hold a variety of items, including cereals, black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and fruit such as cherries, peaches, and pumpkin pieces. They are especially useful for attracting larger birds, like mourning doves, as well as ground-feeding birds like dark-eyed juncos1.
One of the benefits of using platform feeders is their accessibility; many birds can easily perch and feed from them without competing for space. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that these feeders can also attract unwanted pests like raccoons, rodents, mice, and rats. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the feeder clean and prevent the accumulation of birdseed or leftovers at the end of the day.
Tube feeders are popular among small birds like chickadees, finches, grosbeaks, nuthatches, sparrows, and titmice2. They are cylindrical containers with multiple feeding ports and perches along the length of the tube. These feeders can accommodate birdseed mixes, whole nuts, and other types of bird food. The tube feeder’s design allows birds to eat comfortably at various levels, making it an excellent choice for different species.
During migration and summer, tube feeders provide an essential food source for our backyard visitors. The feeder’s closed design ensures that seeds stay dry and less likely to spoil or attract pests. Be sure to clean your tube feeder periodically to maintain its effectiveness and keep birds healthy.
Suet feeders are specifically designed to hold suet cakes, which are made from rendered fat, seeds, and other ingredients. Suet is an excellent source of energy for birds, particularly during colder months or migration. Suet feeders attract species like the evening grosbeak, brown creeper, and white-breasted nuthatch3.
One advantage of suet feeders is their ability to deter larger, heavier birds, allowing smaller species to feed without competition. Suet feeders can also hold alternative food sources like marrow bones and small cuts of meat for added protein and fat. However, it’s worth noting that suet can turn rancid in warm weather, so it’s essential to use suet feeders carefully during summer months.
How to Attract Various Bird Species
Attracting a variety of bird species to your backyard can be a delightful and rewarding experience. One of the most effective ways to draw in diverse bird life is by offering them a range of food options beyond traditional birdseed mixes. To get started, you can consider offering birds the following foods:
- Sunflower seeds: A popular choice for many backyard birds, including sparrows, goldfinches, and chickadees. You can offer sunflower seeds to attract a wide variety of bird species.
- Cracked corn: This versatile grain is enjoyed by pigeons, doves, and wild birds. It provides essential nutrients and energy to your backyard visitors.
- Nuts and cereals: Many birds appreciate oats, wheat, and grains, which offer nutritional value and energy. American Robins, Gray Catbirds, and woodpeckers are particularly fond of them.
- Fruit: Pears, grapes, melon, and raisins can attract various bird species, including wrens and orioles. Cut the fruit into small pieces to make it more accessible for smaller birds.
- Eggshells: Crushed eggshells provide essential calcium for birds, especially during the nesting season. You can offer rinsed and crushed eggshells to attract species like pigeons and sparrows.
- Rice: Cooked or uncooked rice can be a good food source for many birds. Ensure that the rice is unsalted and offered in moderation to avoid overfeeding.
- Suet: Suet is a high-energy food that attracts insect-eating birds like woodpeckers and wrens. You can offer suet blocks or cakes to provide extra nutrition, especially during the colder months.
While providing a variety of food options, it’s essential to ensure that the food is fresh and free from contaminants. Avoid offering salted foods, as salt can be harmful to birds. Keep an eye on raccoons, squirrels, and other unwelcome visitors who may attempt to raid your bird feeding stations.
In addition to food, consider providing clean water sources and safe nesting sites for birds in your backyard. Experiment with different food offerings and observe which species are most attracted to your yard. With time and effort, you’ll create a welcoming environment that supports a diverse array of backyard bird species.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kitchen items are safe for feeding birds?
Many kitchen items can be a treat for birds. For example, apples can be consumed by various bird species such as eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, and American robins, just remember to remove the seeds before serving them source.
What do small birds commonly eat?
Small birds, like other birds, are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They enjoy a wide range of food items, including seeds, insects, and smaller animals source.
Are raisins suitable for bird consumption?
Raisins, along with other dried fruits, can be a suitable snack for some bird species like blackbirds, thrushes, and starlings. However, always provide raisins in moderation and alongside a range of other food sources for a balanced diet. It is also a good idea to soak them in water to soften them before serving.
Which foods should be avoided when feeding wild birds?
Certain foods can be toxic or harmful to wild birds, so it’s essential to know what to avoid. Some examples of items to avoid include chocolate, caffeine, avocado, and alcohol source.
Is it safe for birds to eat crackers?
Birds can eat crackers, but they should be provided sparingly. Crackers do not offer much nutritional value and might contain added salt or sugar, which can be harmful to birds. Opt for healthier alternatives like unprocessed seeds and fresh fruits instead.
Can I feed wild birds with rice?
It is generally safe to offer wild birds cooked or uncooked rice, especially for species like ducks and pigeons. Just ensure the grains are not too hot and are free of additives like salt or spices. Remember, rice should only be a small part of their diet, and it’s essential to provide a variety of other foods to ensure they receive a balanced, nutritious meal.
- https://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/attracting-birds/feeding-birds/three-seed-types-birds-love-best/ ↩ ↩2
- https://www.thespruce.com/kitchen-scraps-to-feed-birds-386571 ↩ ↩2
- https://www.almanac.com/feeding-wild-birds-guide-seed-types ↩ ↩2
- https://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/attracting-birds/feeding-birds/feeding-birds-kitchen-items/ ↩