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Backyard Birding: Backyard Bird Feeding 101

I spoke with a reader of our paper this week who complimented me on our paper and specifically this backyard birding column.  They love the idea of having a multitude of new song and colours in their yard, but don’t know how to start.  They asked for a birding 101 on how to get started.

First you need to determine what you would like to attract in your yard.   If you would like to attract teenagers to your yard, set out pizzas and pop music.   If you would like to attract small children, offer balloons and ice cream.   Similarly, depending on what bird you would like to attract, you can “set the table” for them.

Robins and Eastern Bluebirds are not seed eaters, but you can attract them with meal worms.  Orioles love oranges cut in half and placed on a fence or oriole feeder and also can’t pass up grape jelly.

Most birds are seed eaters, and the most common seed is black oil sunflower seeds.  They are smaller seeds than the common striped sunflower. Cardinals are fans of safflower seeds and Blue Jay and Woodpeckers love peanuts.

Don’t be fooled by “All Purpose Mix”.  These mixes are usually light on the good stuff, but heavy on the fillers like:  crack corn, wheat, milo, canary seed and buckwheat.  Starlings and grackles and maybe a few sparrows may nibble on them, but most will be scattered on the ground under your feeder.

When trying to attract the largest number of seed eating birds, black oil sunflower is your best choice.   This chart illustrates seed/food preferences:

So, just like throwing a party in your backyard, if you want to attract all the neighbourhood baby boomers, start the BBQ and play some 70’s hits.   If you want to attract a certain bird, offer their favourite meal!

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