Forestry & Wildlife
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Bird feeding is a hobby that over 62 million Americans enjoy. Alabama boasts a diverse gathering of bird species, making bird feeding an especially popular activity in the state.
Just as the seasons change, so do the species of birds visiting yards. The birds people see in the fall are different from those in they see in the summer. Remember, feeders and food should best suit the seasonal group of birds in the yard.
Bence Carter, an Alabama Extension regional agent in forestry, wildlife and natural resources, said Alabama’s bird population is made up of not only resident birds, but also migrant birds flocking to the warmer area to spend their winter.
“Feeding birds in the fall and winter can provide a supplemental food source for both resident and migratory species, and it should be continued throughout the winter,” Carter said.
Carter offers the following tips about backyard bird feeding.
- Make the yard bird friendly. Providing birds with food, habitat, nest boxes and water will ensure that they visit the yard year-round. Feeders near shrubs and trees tend to have the most visitors.
- Place feeders in readily visible places. This way you can frequently see the birds you are feeding.
- Keeping birds safe should be a priority. Window collisions, outdoor cats and dirty feeders are easily avoidable. Move feeders within 3 feet of windows, remove hiding places of cats and keep feeders debris-free and filled only with seeds. A mild detergent and hot water are helpful with cleaning feeders. Regular cleaning prevents not only bacteria and mold from growing but also the spread of diseases among birds.
- Begin with the basics. A tubular feeder filled with black-oil sunflower seeds is an effective attractant of large numbers of birds. When you are ready to attract more species, add additional types of feeders and seeds.
- Types of Food. People can try mixtures of black-oil sunflower, hulled sunflower and whole peanuts in platform and hopper feeders. Alternative foods and water can also be good options. Fruits, mealworms, nectar, suet and water may attract birds that are not found at traditional offerings to your yard.
According to Carter, incorporating suet feeders in the winter months will attract species of birds that normally eat insects. This will provide birds with a high-energy food source.
Incorporating fruiting plants in a yard can provide an additional food source for birds. However, Carter said to avoid non-native species.
“Birds could potentially aid in the spread of these,” Carter said. “Some native species that attract birds include persimmons, crabapples, pokeberry, hawthorn, holly, elderberry, flowering dogwood and red cedar.”
For more information on bird feeding this fall, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office to see what programs are available near you. Backyard bird guides and binoculars are also helpful tools to learn more about your birds. They can provide you with a greater appreciation for your backyard bird visitors.