Jules Kendall shares the sweet and savory at her blog, Pancakes and French Fries. She almost never writes about food. Instead, she focuses on her improving her health, decluttering and simplifying her home, and life with two loud boys and one quiet husband. She is the creator of The William Morris Project, a weekly series that encourages people to have nothing in their home they do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
We recently did something as a family that I would have never in a million years predicted: We bought a cockatiel! We named our bird Buttercup (above), and I believe adding her/him (you can't determine the gender of a bird until they're a year old) to our family is one of the best decisions we have made. She relaxes us, she has opened our eyes to the intricate social life of birds, and she has even inspired great mother/sons bonding time. Yes, Buttercup has an Instagram account.
Now that I'm obsessed with birds, I'm looking into how to attract more species to our backyard. My friend Jill has been a phenomenal source of knowledge and inspiration. Her backyard is like a scene from the Cinderella Disney cartoon—birds are sewing, carrying ribbons, polishing shoes.
The first step to attracting birds is to provide them with a water source for drinking and bathing. A simple birdbath is enough. Next, consider what bird types live in your area of the country and which of those birds you want visiting your yard. To do this, you need to think about bird feeders and how to fill them. The type of bird feeder you hang and the type of seed you fill it with, will determine which birds stop by. Below I've explained the most common birdfeeders and what birds they attract. Happy bird watching!
Left: Tube Feeder / Right: House Feeder
Tube feeders are long, cylindrical, and made for birds that like to perch when they eat. These feeders protect the seed from the weather and are often squirrel proof. Unless you're sure you'll be feeding dozens of birds every morning, start off with a small tube feeder, this way seeds have less of a chance of growing fungus and bacteria. Only use the amount of seed the birds will go through in a couple of days.
Birds attracted: sparrows, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and finches
Tray feeders will attract the biggest variety of birds to your yard. However, this type of setup leaves your seed susceptible to inclement weather, squirrels, raccoons, deer, rats, and bird droppings. It's important to clean out your tray feeder every day or so for this reason. If you skip the seed and add fruits, insects, mealworms, and marmalade, you can expect gorgeous orioles!
Birds attracted: when mounted on a pole, you can expect the same birds you'd see with a tube feeder. When mounted close to the ground, expect grounder feeders like juncos, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows. When filled with fruits and insects, you can expect orioles.
Hopper or House Feeder
These feeders offer good protection from the elements but not squirrels. Also, the seed can get bacteria and fungus because of the way it's housed. Every feeder has its pluses and minuses. In this case, think of the protection as a petrie dish!
Suet is rendered animal fat coated in birdseed. It sounds gross, but it's great for nesting birds in the spring and insect eating birds. If you live in an area with cold winters, it also helps birds survive the lean months until spring. Some suet feeders are metal cages, and others are mesh socks. It's a matter of preference.
These feeders have a very fine mesh that only the nyjer seed and thistle can fit through. Squirrels don't like nyjer seed, so this is a good pick if you don't want to attract our bushy-tailed friends. Because it's exposed to the elements, fungus and bacteria can easily grow.