Here’s a question Julie answered in our October 2013 issue: I get this question frequently from different parts of the country and about different types of birds. Wild birds won't starve if feeders are empty since they get most of their food from natural sources, but they also won't return to an unreliable food source. She blogs about her research at net-results.blogspot.com, and she maintains the website Coffee & Conservation, a thorough resource on where coffee comes from and its impact on wild birds. It is easy to get started feeding birds, but novice birders often make simple mistakes that can keep birds from enjoying the feeders. Some feeders styles can be grouped together, while some specialty feeders, such as finch feeders, work best when 10 feet or more from other birds. Melissa Mayntz has been a birder and wild bird enthusiast for 30+ years. In every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior in her column “Since You Asked.” If water gets into the seed, mold can grow that can make birds sick and the strong smell may attract even more unwanted pests. A version of this article appeared in the October 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Thibault Martin-Lagardette/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0. Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more! Also see "helping" (cooperative breeding) where individuals other than the male–female pair help to raise a brood. Birdseed does have a long shelf life, but only if stored properly. Participants from across North America submit counts of birds at their feeders a few times a month in winter. Find out more and sign up at www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw. Birds can be forgiving if a feeder is empty for a few days, but a feeder that is consistently empty won't attract birds. The cheapest birdseed is often loaded with inexpensive fillers such as cracked corn, milo, oats, or wheat. Raccoons, deer, squirrels, rats, and even bears will snack at feeders, often depleting the seed supply or even breaking the feeders without letting any birds get a bite. Using the data, researchers can determine if you are experiencing a real population decline or if a temporary regional phenomenon is at work. Dirty feeders are also more susceptible to damage and wear, making them less useful over time and requiring more frequent feeder repairs or replacements. A dirty feeder can become clogged, and wet or spoiled seed can transmit diseases to backyard birds, which can then spread to an entire neighborhood flock. You are also correct in suspecting that a hawk may be partly responsible. Baby birds. Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox. Four varieties certified by Audubon available until June 21. Learn tips for creating your most beautiful (and bountiful) garden ever. Open feeders with trays or perches will attract a decent variety of birds, but to maximize bird feeding it is essential to use different feeders. In every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior in her column “Since You Asked.” Julie is supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center. Choices such as honey, brown sugar, fruit juices, and artificial sweeteners do not provide the proper sugar concentration for hummingbird food, and they can produce mold that is deadly to the birds. Raptors have large hunting areas (an entire neighborhood, for example), so they often play a part in feeder absences. In years when natural seeds or berries are plentiful, birds are less likely to visit feeders. The food is often refused, and the dominant bird may even chase off or attack the subordinate. Feeding birds requires more than just putting out birdseed, and avoiding these top 10 bird feeding mistakes can ensure a healthy, nutritious buffet for a wide range of bird species to enjoy. Back in July my wife and I observed a Downy Woodpecker feeding another Downy Woodpecker, like it was feeding a chick, but both birds were adults. While bread and other kitchen scraps can be a very rare treat for birds, these foods should never be offered exclusively. Both birds may be the same sex. Other: In some species, a subordinate bird may bring food to a dominant individual. Birders who avoid natural foods such as fruit trees or nectar-producing flowers, or who kill insects that birds can feed on, are depriving birds of the most nutritious, easiest, and most economical food sources available. As seed gets old and dries out, it is also less nutritious and will not attract as many birds. Seed that isn't stored well can spoil and be invaded by pests such as mice, rats, larvae, silverfish, earwigs, or moths. Feeding birds requires more than just putting out birdseed, and avoiding these top 10 bird feeding mistakes can ensure a healthy, nutritious buffet for a wide range of bird species to enjoy. Introducing "One Thing": A New Video Series, The Spruce Gardening & Plant Care Review Board, The Spruce Renovations and Repair Review Board, choosing the types of seeds their birds prefer. For example, woodpeckers will be happiest near trees, while goldfinches will typically prefer to be out in the open. Feeding hummingbirds is one of the most popular ways to enjoy backyard birds, but using any sweetener other than plain white sugar to make nectar can be dangerous. She has over 16 years experience writing about wild birds for magazines and websites. But interestingly, bird parents have an intense instinct to nurture young at the time their own young are dependent. Keep up to date on all the latest birding news and info. Your source for becoming a better birder. While some mistakes only make feeders unattractive, others can endanger the birds or even drive them away. Well-stocked feeding stations may go untouched when natural food is plentiful. At the same time, unprotected feeders also expose birds to predators when their senses are dulled by feeding. BirdWatching While some mistakes only make feeders unattractive, others can endanger the birds or even drive them away. Refilling feeders more promptly will attract a wider variety of birds in every season and will help keep the feeder clean and in good repair.

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