Birding is a wildly popular hobby. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, about 45 million Americans are birders, while data from the popular bird observation app eBird indicates that submissions from Canadian birders increased by 34 percent in 2020.
It’s not uncommon for birding enthusiasts to travel great distances to see beautiful birds in serene settings. But individuals also can entice beautiful birds to come to them. Bird feeders beckon birds to millions of backyards every day, making them an ideal addition to properties owned by people with an affinity for avians. After choosing a bird feeder, novices may not know which food to fill it with. This breakdown, courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation, can help anyone find the right food for their feeders.
Nectar: Individuals who want to attract hummingbirds can do so with nectar, which the NWF describes as colored sugar water. Nectar must be placed into a hummingbird feeder and also might attract orioles to the backyard.
Black-oil sunflower: The NWF notes that black-oil sunflower is the most popular bird seed. Black-oil sunflower attracts an array of birds, including blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, and sparrows. Novices may like that black-oil sunflower seed can even be found at many grocery stores, which can appeal to individuals who live in remote locations without specialty bird stores nearby.
Mixes: Seed mixes also can be found at grocery stores and appeal to a variety of birds. Individuals who want to keep their feeders close to their decks or patios may want to look for mixes described as “no-mess.” The NWF indicates that these mixes have been de-hulled, which means there won’t be as big a pile of unwanted seeds beneath the feeder. That tends to be the case with regular mixes that birds pick through as they choose which seeds they want and discard the others, often dropping them to the ground beneath the feeder. The NWF reports that mixes tend to attract ground-feeding birds, such as doves and sparrows.
Suet: Suet is sought after in winter by bird lovers who want to help birds stay healthy and strong during times of year when food sources are scarce. Suet requires a suet feeder, which is unlike most bird feeders. Suet comes in squares and isn’t in seed form, though seeds are typically mixed in to the gelatinous cake. Despite its appearance, which can seem like a square block of fat, suet is an excellent source of protein for birds in winter.
Thistle or nyjer: The NWF notes that goldfinches love this small, high-quality seed. Because thistle or nyjer is something of a specialty seed, birders who want to put it out will need to purchase a finch feeder.