Birds provide beauty and song in our backyards—and their presence is beneficial for people in many ways: as natural pest control, for pollination of crops, and more. To attract them, create a welcoming environment—and provide special care for them in fall and winter seasons when their natural food sources diminish.
More About Benefits of Attracting Birds
Besides naturally ridding your yard of mosquitoes, aphids, and more, health benefits also exist. For example, living in an area with birds has been linked to fewer depression incidents. Plus, as you become more focused on attracting birds to your backyard, you’ll naturally start including native plants that will enhance your landscaping and your home’s curb appeal.
Wild Birds in New York
Each part of our country (and world) has a unique mix of wild birds to learn more about and enjoy. Here in New York, there are a couple of dozen bird species you’ll likely see. One of the most common is the northern cardinal (Cardinalis Cardinalis). The male is red with black around its bill while the female is a pale brown with tinges of red. This bird enjoys eating fruits and seeds as well as some kinds of bugs. What’s unusual about the northern cardinal: the females also sing. If you’re interested in attracting a pair to breed, you can fill a wild bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds.
The American goldfinch (Spinus Tristis) is a yellow bird, bright with black wings and forehead—and a white bar on the wings. Males are, anyhow. Females are pale, olive above and yellow below. This kind of bird enjoys sunflower seeds as well as nyjer seed.
As a third example, the tufted titmouse (Baeolophus Bicolor) is silvery gray with a white breast and a black patch above its bill. The tail is long and its black eyes are big. You’ll probably notice its song as it echoes. This species usually travels in a group and is attracted to feeders with sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts.
Perhaps you’re already an experienced birdwatcher or maybe you’ve just enjoyed having a variety of beautiful birds flying around the backyard. If you’re interested in learning more about them, the National Parks Service offers a beginning guide for birdwatchers.
All you need is a decent pair of binoculars (the guide provides more specifics) and a bird guide. You can get one from the library with folded ID type being the simplest—or you can buy one if you think this will become a regular hobby. Early on, it can help to get a bird guide with the species arranged by color.
Plus, there’s an app for this. Many of them, in fact, with Daily Birder sharing the five best in 2021. The site suggests that you get to know the “regulars” first, discovering how to identify them by sight, sound, and habit, including what they eat. Once you have this information, you’ll be able to spot when something unusual occurs.
If you’re an early bird yourself, you’ll notice how some species are most active early in the day. Others may prefer evening hours. Plus, the quieter you remain, the more birds you may see (because some scare pretty easily). Patience is a virtue, too, given that some birds blend into the background more so than others.
Consider journaling about what you see: the species, along with when and where you see them. This logbook will help you to anticipate when and where you might see them again. You’ll also get a sense of their migratory patterns. Some species will be seasonal while others are year-round friends.
More About Migration
Feeding wild birds makes sense whether they migrate when frigid temperatures hit or not. In the fall, feeding birds can help ones that are preparing to migrate by building up their fat reserves for their flight and provide ones in the migration process with an extra boost of energy. This increases the likelihood, too, that birds will return to your area when spring returns.
About twenty-five percent of birds in North America don’t migrate and these birds will require high fat food during the cold winter months to give them the fat reserves and energy they’ll need to survive. If your goal is to attract winter birds to your backyard, having ready food supplies will encourage them to stay nearby throughout the season.
Attracting Birds in the Winter
Like other animals, birds need food, water, and shelter to survive. By making your winter garden more attractive to birds, they will reward you with their presence.
Evergreen trees attract birds with their dense branches providing the shelter they need. Plus, the cones bear fruit and protect the seeds that some bird species use as a prime food source. Other helpful trees include firs, hemlock, junipers, and spruce.
Here’s an easy winter strategy to consider. Don’t cut your grass. Grasses can also provide shelter for birds with their seeds serving as another food source.
You can also put up bird houses to provide shelter for feathered friends, structures that give them a place to protect themselves against predators and challenging weather conditions. For that reason, you may hear a bird house called a “nesting box,” and adding one or more to your property can be one of the simplest ways to help wild birds. Today’s bird houses come in attractive designs, too, that add to the visual appeal of your yard. Plus, this gives you added opportunities to birdwatch and listen to birdsong, two relaxing activities for families.
During freezing temperatures, finding fresh clean water to drink can be a real challenge. The solution: a bird bath would be a welcome sight for all birds. For a year-round solution, we offer a bird bath de-icer. Birds also use bird baths to clean themselves and, in warmer temperatures, to cool themselves off. When birds can effectively clean themselves, this helps them to remain healthy.
It’s important to appropriately place your bird baths where the birds can easily find them and, if desired, you can birdwatch. Put the bath where the birds can have some protection from natural predators on level ground. You may want to locate the bird bath near a hose. That way, when it’s warm enough to use the hose, you can conveniently refill the basin with fresh water. Or you can use pitchers of water.
As already mentioned, tree cones and grass seed can help to sustain birds in the winter months. To provide more natural food sources, you can plant American BeautyBerry, bayberry, inkberry, and winter holly and let the birds feast on the berries. You can also wait until spring to cut back your flowers. Black-eyed Susans and coneflowers are examples of flowers that can provide food for birds during the frosty months.
To further help our feathered friends, you can then supplement plants and trees with backyard bird supplies, including wild bird feeders and the food that goes in them.
Wild Bird Feeders
Our garden center offers a wide range of wild bird feeders. Here are several types and examples that will stand up to our winter weather, protect the seeds, and are easy to clean.
House Bird Feeder
Most wild birds are attracted to this type of feeder and this classic house-shaped style is often what people think of when they first consider buying a bird feeder. They can typically be suspended or mounted on a pole. A tube inside the feeder may contain enough seed for a few days. House feeders can be crafted from a variety of materials, such as a steel cage style or maintenance-free recycled material.
Tube Bird Feeder
Named after their shape and available in a range of sizes, this style often attracts small wild birds instead of larger ones. You’ll place seed in the hollow tube and, if the feeder comes with a perch located above the port, they’re created for birds that can eat while hanging upside down. The perch in this tube feeder is weight sensitive and will collapse with too much weight, which prevents squirrels from eating the seed.
Nyjer Bird Feeder
Also called a thistle feeder, these are often used by American goldfinches, among other birds—and, as a bonus, squirrels generally aren’t interested in nyjer seed. This kind of feeder is often tube shaped with small ports for feeding or fine mesh bags where the birds can extract the food. Here is an example of a durable acrylic nyjer feeder with a stainless steel screen.
Panorama Bird Feeder
These feeders come with a circular perch that makes it easy for birds to enjoy eating from multiple angles. They can be easy to fill and maintain. For example, this panorama feeder features a transparent seed compartment so you can quickly tell if it’s time to refill the supply.
Window Bird Feeder
If you’d like an up close and personal look at the wild birds who feed off of your seed, a window feeder can be ideal because they can allow the entire family to birdwatch. You can take photos of the birds with ease from inside your home, allowing you to enjoy birdwatching in the winter. Plus, this is a great choice if you don’t have a balcony or patio. This window feeder attaches with three sturdy suction cups for ease of installation.
Mesh feeders contain suet cakes that attract a variety of birds, including woodpeckers. They can be hung off of a hopper feeder, suspended, or even tied to a tree. This double suet feeder comes with a roof to protect the food from moisture that comes from rain and snow.
Different feeder structures use different kinds of feed—with each of them (the feeder and the feed) playing a role in what birds they’ll attract. Browse more options in our wild bird feeders and, if you have questions about them or other wild bird supplies, stop by our retail garden center; or contact our experts online; or call (631) 261-1148.
Wild Bird Seed
There are many different types of bird seed available. Feel free to contact our expert team when deciding which kind of bird seed to buy to match the feeders you have (or are buying) and/or to attract the kinds of birds you have in mind. Here are common types of bird seed that attract birds.
Black-oil sunflower seed is the most popular bird seed and attracts nearly every kind of wild bird. This type of seed can be used in a wide range of feeders, which increases its appeal, including (but not limited to) people new to birding. We offer sunflower seed that’s already been selected and cleaned to attract numerous wild bird types.
Nyjer (thistle) provides high-energy bird food, attracting multiple types of wild birds to your feeder around the year. It’s rich in fat, protein, fiber, and sugar, and is especially known for attracting small wild birds. Nyjer seed works best in a feeder that’s specially designed for this food and it’s shown to be one of the most popular foods for finches.
As the name suggests, this contains a variety of seed types all in one product. With mixed seed, it’s important to check what’s included. Some will contain fillers like wheat, oats, or red milo that birds toss aside. Quality mixed bird seed will contain sunflower kernels, nuts, and cracked corn. This mixed seed contains more than 50% of sunflower seeds and nuts with no fillers.
With these, bird seed and more are shaped into cakes by using animal fat. This food is usually served through bird feeders that are designed for this purpose and attract numerous types of wild birds. When in high temperatures, suet cakes can melt, but we offer no-melt suet cakes that you can use throughout the year.
Plenty of birds love spicy flavor (and, as a bonus, squirrels and other animals typically don’t). Here at Decker’s Nursery, we offer a hot bird seed that contains hot chili peppers, sunflower meats, and safflower oil without any filler ingredients. This blend is ideal, year round.
This is just a sampling of what we have available. If you have questions about what food to provide to attract your birds of choice or to match a wild bird feeder and the food that it’s intended for, just ask!
What Not to Feed Birds
Avoid putting salty foods in your garden, including bacon, chips, and salty peanuts. Bird bellies can swell after eating salt. Don’t put out milk, large pieces of bread, loose peanuts, desiccated coconut, or any spoiled or moldy food.
Visit Decker’s Nursery For Your Backyard Bird Supplies
From the plants that attract birds in the winter to the backyard bird supplies you need to make your backyard an inviting environment, either stop by our retail garden center or browse our products online. Or feel free to contact us online or call us at 631-261-1148 to let us know what you need and how our team can help.