Bird-feeding is an easy way to attract native birds to your backyard. Install a bird feeder in a tree, on a fence, or hanging from a pole to attract a variety of bird species. You can also create your own feeding station with objects in and around your home, such as peanut butter smeared on a pine cone. As not all birds eat seeds, it’s important to learn about your local birds and what they prefer to eat.

Ready-Made Bird Foods

Sunflower seeds are the most commonly used seed in backyard feeders and attract the widest variety of birds. If you prefer a mix of seeds in your bird feeders, most birds will also eat safflower, red millet, golden millet, white proso millet, and rapeseed. When choosing food for birds, you’ll also want to consider the types of birds in your area and the specific time of year. For example, you may notice that your bird feeders are used less as summer turns into fall. Some species of birds, such as hummingbirds, stop eating at feeders in the fall due to migration but will return in the spring.

When you first begin the process of feeding wild birds in your backyard, you may not yet know what types of birds are in your neighborhood. Start with a versatile feed that contains high-quality ingredients and take notice of what birds visit. Black oil sunflower seeds are an excellent choice for attracting a variety of birds, such as goldfinches, chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and doves. Black oil sunflower seeds are also rich in proteins and fats that are essential to keep birds healthy. Suet, which is made from rendered fat, is an alternative food option for birds. You can purchase suet anywhere that sells birdseed. It’s typically available in plain varieties as well as blends containing seeds, fruits, and nuts.

Homemade Bird Foods

Blending your own bird feed for your backyard visitors can save you money and help you avoid store-bought blends that contain too many filler seeds. Most homemade bird food recipes are economical, easy to make, and require no cooking. Some types of birds, such as hummingbirds, feed on simple sugar-based treats. To create a simple hummingbird nectar, you’ll need to combine one part sugar to four parts water. Allow the water to boil in a saucepan, and then slowly add the sugar. Let the mixture boil for two to four minutes, then remove it from the burner. Store any excess in the refrigerator.

You can create a dry feed mixture with a variety of seeds, fruits, and other ingredients you may find in your kitchen. For fruits, opt for dried berries such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries, or cranberries. You can also use dried, chopped apples, prunes, melon, or raisins in your bird feed mix. For an extra treat, most wild birds enjoy peanuts and peanut butter, crushed graham crackers, oatmeal, and cornmeal.

Food Options to Avoid

When feeding local birds, consider if the foods you’re offering are safe to eat and if they offer adequate nutrition. For example, bread is filling to most birds but does not contain the proteins and fats birds need for survival. You’ll also want to avoid foods that are overly salty, which can cause swelling once ingested. Also avoid raw dairy, desiccated coconut, dry, hard foods, chocolate, apple seeds, avocado, fruit pits, caffeine, or moldy or spoiled foods.