Bird Feeding Basics

Feeding the birds has been a favorite pastime of Americans for over 100 years.  Traditional bird feeders became popular in the United States in the early 1900’s. Watching the birds grab a quick bite to eat can be a relaxing and rewarding experience. While bird feeding is a relatively easy, here is some more information that you may find helpful in making your bird feeding experience more successful.

The Basics

When beginning to feed the birds, first you must determine which birds you would like to attract to your yard. There are several types of feeders designed for bird seed: hopper, tube, platform, and window feeders. Most feeders are great at describing what seeds you can use in them and which birds it will attract. It’s best to offer multiple types of bird food as this will attract a wider variety of birds to your feeders. Like humans, different birds have different preferences on what they like to eat.

Here is a chart that shows which birds are typically attracted to which seeds.

Placing feeders in multiple locations in your yard may also bring in more birds as they also have preferred eating locations. Birds like to feel safe while they eat. Locating your feeders closer to trees and shrubs allows birds to swoop into your feeders, grab some of their favorite seeds, and fly back to cover to enjoy their meal.

Providing water near your feeders will also encourage more birds to visit your yard. This will bring in birds looking for a quick bath and allow them to quench their thirst after eating from your feeders.

Consistency is very important when it comes to bird feeding. Birds can get accustomed to eating at the same feeders. If a feeder remains empty for a long period of time, birds may move to a new area to find other food. When you first begin to feed the birds, remember to be patient, birds must first find your feeder and get familiar with the area before it becomes a part of their normal feeding routine. This may take up to a couple of weeks in some instances.

Bird Safety

Birds have a tendency to fly into windows as they see a reflection of what is outside in the glass. It is estimated that one billion birds die each year in the United States from window collisions. There are things that can be done to help prevent this.

First, if you have a smaller yard, placing bird feeders closer to your house will help decrease collisions in which birds are injured. This may seem counterintuitive; however, birds are likely to slow down to stop at feeders to see what is on the menu. When taking off from feeders, birds are not up to full speed in the short distance from the feeders and if a window collision does occur, they are less likely to be injured or killed due to their slower speed.

Placing a window feeder on your window or using window clings will help reduce collisions as this will show birds that they are not able to fly through these areas, or at the least, they will slow down.

Another safety hazard for wild birds is domestic cats. It is estimated that cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the United States. Many of these are birds that are dazed after colliding with a window. Keeping cats indoors as much as possible will allow these birds that do survive window collisions to get their bearings and live another day.

Mold can also be very dangerous to wild birds. Consuming seeds with mold can cause birds to become very ill and at times can be fatal. Monitor feeders for mold during times of rain and high humidity. If mold is present, discard of the moldy seed in the garbage and wash the feeder. It is also a good idea to periodically rake up uneaten seeds and hulls that fall to the ground as these can grow mold as well.


While it is unlikely, birds can transfer salmonella, and even more unlikely, bird flu to humans. Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after filling your bird feeders.

It is also important to keep your bird feeders clean. It is recommended that feeders be cleaned often with a 10% bleach solution, 1 part bleach, 10 parts water. To clean your feeders, first empty feeders of all seeds, soak them in the bleach solution for at least 10 minutes, rinse until the smell of bleach is gone, and allow them enough time to completely air dry before refilling with bird seed. This should be done outside in a bin or in a laundry/utility sink, never in a kitchen sink.

It is also important to clean bird baths regularly. When birds bathe, they remove parasites and other debris from their feathers. Keeping the water fresh by changing it frequently will make the bird bath appealing. Empty the water on the ground outside, scrub the bath using the same 10% bleach solution used to clean feeders, and rinse until the smell of bleach is gone. Allow the bird bath to air dry completely and refill with fresh water.

Bird Food Storage

Storing bird food properly is crucial to successfully feeding the birds. It is best to store bird food in cool, dry place as this will extend the life of the bird food. Metal garbage cans work great for bird food storage as this keeps the seeds dry and prevents rodents for accessing the seeds. This also prevents mold from growing. Insects may reside near bird seed that is stored improperly. The most common insect associated with bird food storage is the meal moth. All of our bird food is treated with Moth Guard®, which is completely safe for both birds and humans, to help prevent this from occurring.

Unwanted Visitors

When it comes to feeding the birds, sometimes other critters like to take more than their fair share from feeders. The most frequent offenders are squirrels. They are very intelligent and athletic creatures. This makes preventing squirrels from accessing feeders very challenging.

Placing bird feeders approximately 10 feet away from the nearest trees and shrubs will make it much more difficult for them to dine at your feeders. Use baffles 17 inches in diameter or larger will stop most squirrels from climbing up feeder poles. Consider offering other food in a different location in your yard to attract them to an easier meal which will draw them away from your feeders.

While stopping squirrels from eating from your bird feeders may seem impossible, using these steps will help you greatly reduce the amount of bird food they consume.

If you have any other questions about feeding the birds, please use the Contact Us page and we will do our best to assist you!

Thank you for feeding the birds!