Having pets at home can be an expensive and arduous task if not researched thoroughly. Most importantly, have you ever thought about the variations of products you require to maintain those little fellows?
The four-pawed ones aside, if you think birds have a lesser maintenance requirement, you are wrong. Birds, too, need special care – upkeep is not limited to vaccinations or shelters; it extends up to their nourishment.
For the novice birders, it is often a setback as the ideal proportion, brand, and frequency of nutrition becomes one of the most challenging responsibilities.
While some mistakes seem minor to us humans, the slightest disturbance in a bird’s diet can prove to be fatal. Feeding assumes a higher platform of commitment. It is the nurturing of a species to enable them to become their strongest selves.
Hence, it is of utmost importance to pursue a thorough understanding of this subject and educate yourself on the ps and qs of bird care.
SOME OF THE COMMON FEEDING MISTAKES
The earliest bird catches the worm, but such an action can be performed only when your bird is in perfect health. Minor errors can be overlooked when it arises in rarity. To avoid heavy consequences, a birder must keep in mind some common mistakes that could be avoided.
- Using Cheap Bird Seeds: Birders or bird watchers believe that every bird is gifted with a sharp sensibility. They can differentiate between a cheap bargain of seeds and good quality food.
You might prefer to save your pocket by purchasing a sack of bird food at an attractive offer. However, these bags of birdseed are often packed with cheap stuffings like milo, oats, corn, wheat, etc.
Such snacks might not be appropriate for all species of birds hence, it will result in them either making a mess out of them or weakening their health by consuming. Both cases do not seem feasible.
- Feeding the Birds Bread: One of the most common sights that grace us is the birds being fed bread. However, avoid them becoming a regular diet for your bird lest it becomes toxic.
You can think bread is a convenient and safe staple because it contains grains, but the hardened ones such as crackers, cookies, and cereals are neither suitable for adult birds nor the hatchlings.
- Inadequate Natural Bird Food: No matter how extensive measures we take to keep our birds healthy and happy with regulated diets, they will always yearn for their usual food against their instincts.
The best economical method of keeping your bird content is to provide sufficient sources of nutritious goods like fruits, nectar, insects, etc.
Inadequate measures of such natural goodness will deprive your bird of gaining the healthiest and productive life.
Before we jump on to the topic of the types of birdseed or you end up debating with your retailer about the best bird food, we need to scour one of the most crucial aspects of bird feeding: the feeder.
PROTECTING AND TAKING CARE OF THE BIRD FEEDER
Yes, feeders are as much of a significance as bird food. Imagine an instance where you are served a dish on a plain and unkept platter, you will refuse to touch it irrespective of its supposed deliciousness. The same happens with our winged friends. An unpolished and dirty feeder will not attract any birds if you are a backyard bird feeder, nor would it be a hygienic place to store seeds.
When you are a determined birder, you need to follow some of the feeder ethics. Namely,
- Use Attractive Feeders: If you are a passionate bird watcher, this is one of the best methods of attracting colorful wings to your backyard. Hang up an assortment of feeders either of different shapes and sizes or in different shades.
If you prefer buying a more expensive feeder, ensure that it assumes a whole new character each time you buy. For an economical approach, purchase a long-lasting, and hardy one.
Vivid shades of yellow, orange, and red easily trap the birds bringing them to your backyard. Their instinct of hunting is also satisfied when the birds find a challenge hindering their way of getting to the seeds. You can spend hours photographing or watching them as they twitter around the feeder, cooperating, functioning, and finally succeeding in reaching their goal.
- Different Birds, Different Preferences: Not every bird follows the same diet, sometimes even the basics of feeding might differ depending on the type of species. Moreover, bird seeds also depend on various feeder styles.
Some feeders have an open system with perches and trays that attracts more birds due to their convenience. For hummingbirds, the nectar feeders are a suitable option, whereas a mesh socked feeder prevails as reasonable in areas with a high number of goldfinches.
The other types of feeders include mealworm vessels for bluebirds, suet ones for the vibrant kingfishers, etc.
- All-round Seasonal Feeder: If you think that there is a high percentage of birds who fly around, particularly during summer, you are mistaken. Several birders assume winters as an unproductive season with lesser birds visiting their yard.
However, there are innumerable species who become more active during winters, or you might find some migratory birds visiting your backyard. It is important to keep them well-fed; hence, feeders should be kept filled and freshened for the dozen small birds.
- Cleaning and Caring the Feeders: Rushing towards the best bird food is not the exclusive manner of keeping your backyard friends happy and visiting, you will have to clean and take good care of the feeders.
If a feeder is not regularly cleaned, it might become dirty – clogging the pores – wet and infected. The residues of leftover seeds have a greater opportunity to spread diseases that can be transmitted throughout the flock.
Furthermore, feeders are prone to be attacked by rats, squirrels, and other animals, which will leave them either broken or with no seed. Dirty feeders, on top of that, are vulnerable to wear and tear, compelling you to spend extra for a new one and replacement of parts, again.
Passionate birders believe in protecting their feeders with a fervor. Considering the dangers that threatened these beautiful little creatures, the birders believe feeders to be a prime spot for the predators
- Always Keep the Feeders filled: A consistently empty feeder will fail to attract any birds. Birds are capable of finding another source of food when they come across an unreliable one.
The consequences? There will be a significant lack of visits. If you are searching for the best bird seeds, ensure that you buy it at a reasonable price so that refilling the best feeder(s) will not be too hard on your pocket.
TYPES OF BIRD FOOD
There is rarely an expiry date tapped at the back of a bird food packet. Regardless, they can retain their nutritive value if stored in a safe place. The food that is not stocked adequately can jeopardize the health of any birds who consume it. Moreover, it can be invaded by pests, poisonous insects, rats, earwigs, larvae, and other such afflictions.
Birds will not be inclined to consume the less nutritious seeds, and spoilt ones may emit a strong odor that will attract more nuisances. To avoid such disasters, you must follow some of the basic principles of feeding, caring, and helping your frequent visitors.
Besides, there are some common and other not-so-common types of bird seed that are listed down below. If you are in a state of a predicament as to which is the best bird seed your birds can have, this section will help you sort it all out.
Fruits are the best type of bird seed you will find anywhere. There is nothing better than natural, juicy, and ripe fruits being plucked or left near a feeder over the packaged seeds. Fresh fruits contain the correct balance of nutrition and are believed to be a great bird attracting element.
Be it bananas, grapes, oranges or berries; you can slice them up in bite-size morsels and leave it on the feeder trays. Though fruits can easily turn spoilt during summer, it is better to use them during cooler temperatures.
Orioles hunt down jelly or fruits resembling jellies. If you look forward to catching a glimpse or two of this species, put out a tray of bite-sized jelly in a small snack feeder and wait for them to visit. Although the jelly from the market can be used, it is advised to provide them with those made specifically for birds. Those custom made jelly are healthier as it contains real sugar and fruit juice.
Another great element among this type is dry fruits. They are convenient to store all year round and are easier to offer. Raisins and cranberries attract Robins, Bluebirds, and Mockingbirds.
Hummingbirds and Orioles are nectar favoring birds who require a special type of feeder for the intended purpose. Nectar fits their natural diet complementing their active lifestyle and injecting them with a burst of energy.
Watching these two resplendent creatures zooming back and forth in your backyard and twittering about the nectar feeder gives you a sense of peace as well as boosts your energy.
How to supply them with nectar? Well, you can create a mess-free homemade solution. Nectar is mostly sugar water – simply set out a mixture of sugar and water within a 4:1 ratio and pour it in the nectar feeder.
Apart from having a sweet tooth, they also feed on flies, spiders, caterpillars, and gnats.
- Suet Cakes:
Suet cakes constitute the best bird food for winter. The pure suets are the dense mix of hard fat around the kidneys and loins of beef and sheep. They are mixed with nuts, insects, and fruits to create suet cakes.
Pre-packed suet cakes are available in the market specifically for bird feeders to help them avoid a messy affair. These come in different forms, the square blocks standing as the most common ones. Each wire suet holder is customized to fit the blocks and is a great mechanism to attract Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and Tanagers.
It is advisable to freeze the cakes when not in use. Each suet cake is designed in a different blend, while Woodpeckers’ blends consist of nuts and fruits, the Bluebirds feed on one with insects. To protect this type of bird seed, some suet cakes can include pepper. The birds might not taste it, but it keeps away the squirrels.
Besides cakes, suet is available in balls, nuggets, and plugs.
Corns are a high carb diet containing 15% protein, 6% fat, and 60% carbohydrates. For feeding purposes, they are found in two forms – whole kernel and cracked corns. The former is inexpensive and found in almost every marketplace, compared to the other birdseed. However, only a couple of large bird species feed on a whole kernel such as crows, ravens, ducks, and jays.
Cracked corn is a winner among sparrows, starlings, doves, grackles, blackbirds, and quails. They are the chopped version of whole kernel corn. It is a chief filler in bird seed mixes. Trays and platform feeders are the best types for the cracked corn.
Birders generally use corn to divert the attention of the large birds from the main feeder. They scatter corn, either a whole kernel or cracked, directly on the ground to tempt the House Sparrows and other birds with a big appetite to keep them away from the expensive birdseed.
- Safflower Seeds:
Safflower seeds or the miracle seeds are another best bird food as it fends off wandering pests from the primary feeders. Squirrels and chipmunks particularly find these miracle seeds to be bitter.
Taking advantage of such a mechanism, you can swap the sunflower seeds with the safflower ones to secure the bird treats. They can be put in a sunflower feeder too.
Resembling white sunflower seeds, the safflower ones are larger and have a thicker hull. Thus, making them inedible for small birds. Being high on the protein (38% protein), they attract Cardinals, Woodpeckers, House Finches, doves, Nuthatches, and Titmice.
- Nyjer (Thistle):
Nyjer seeds, or colloquially called thistles, are a staple for the Goldfinches. They have tiny beaks that permit them to feed on small seeds, thus, making nyjer a sound fit. Thistles are extremely thin and of a fragile constitution which comes at a high price.
With maximum protein and fat content, they require a sock feeder to keep them from blowing away. They are sterilized by heat before being packed, preventing them from growing into weeds. Because of its delicate characteristics, nyjer is prone to turn stale easily. Hence, buying nyjer seeds from a brand that specializes in small birdseed is advisable.
Millets are a favorite among small birds. Belonging to one of the desired types of bird seed, millets can be of two kinds- white proso and red proso. They are generally mixed with other fillers and believed to be comprised of high protein, fat, starch and fiber. Small birds find it easy to consume because of their grain-like size.
Those blends having white proso millets are the best bird seed that can be scattered over a hopper or a tray. Pouring the said mixture on a plate enables the birds who prefer not to eat the millets, to push them down.
Buntings, sparrows, doves, and wild turkeys find millets appealing to their palette.
- Sunflower Seeds:
Sunflower seeds are known as universal birdseed. Known as the best bird seed by the passionate birders, there are three different types of sunflower seeds, each having its own advantages and disadvantages.
Hardly a handful of birds don’t feed on the black-oil sunflower seeds. Being one of the most inexpensive types of bird seed, it is commonly available in all food mixtures. They have 40% fat and high oil content rendering them the perfect food for winters.
The ultra-thin hulls and pea-sized body help the birds with weak bills to crack them open easily. You can sprinkle the black-oil seeds either on the ground directly or use a tray/mesh feeders during a feeding session.
Larger than the former, these striped sunflower seeds often accompany the black-oil ones in seed blends. Although these compete with the black-oil seeds regarding their oil and fat content, their thick hull becomes difficult for the weak billed birds to break.
House Sparrows and House Finches are among those birds who find the striped seeds a tough challenge. Moreover, they are more expensive than simple black-oil seeds.
The third best bird food amongst these sunflower seeds is the hulled seeds. Their shells are removed pre-packing, which makes them astoundingly popular among all the birds.
All of them appeal to every backyard visitor in general, and cardinals, jays, and grackles in particular.
- Sorghum Seeds:
Some bird feeders argue that milo can endanger the lives of the birds. Although these seeds are not the best bird food, it depends on the species of birds and the quantity that is being fed. Ducks, geese, and turkey prefer milo while Kingfisher and Wrens would instead feed on it as a mixture.
Sorghum seeds are low on nutritional value and are meshed with other seeds to extend life and quantity.
You can choose to be economical in terms of birdseed hunting. Although we pursue the best bird seed, expensive packaging is not always feasible. Most of the birders save money by purchasing only those bird seed blends that are preferred by the birds. They offer good types of bird seed so that the wastage remains minimal.
In the case of a feeder, it is advisable to use a wide variety of bird feeders along with food samples. When feeding these little backyard visitors, focus on their wellbeing, and prioritize their health. Keep a shallow dish of water or turn a sprinkler on periodically for the birds to bathe and drink in your backyard. This will encourage them to stay for long periods as well as frequent their visits to your yard.