Going to the Birds

You might remember a bit ago I told you about my squirrels.


I adore them.  Now we have not one but two or even three squirrels at the feeder.  The chitter chatter and chase all around the tree.  The childcare kiddos have loved it and I love it too.

That’s got me thinking about birds.  Oh, I would just love to have birds like I have the squirrels.

Some time ago I bought a couple bird feeders….I put them out but never got a single bird.  Not one.   That was last fall.  I was so discouraged.   I took the feeders down.  Here they are on a shelf in the garage.

I vaguely mentioned something about it on the blog and readers sent in a few things of advice.  That’s when I realized that there actually is a talent to getting birds to come.

So then I went to WalMart to see if I could figure something out.  Oh my word…Instead of helping it was overwhelming.  See??

Oh…no.  I started to think there is no way I’m going to figure this all out.
There are too many choices and no advice to go with the options.  Who knew there was so much to getting birds to come.


Ah…Hummingbirds.  They are likely one of my favorite bird.  Oh, could I get them to come…What cute little feeders.  I think they might be an economical bird to get to come as I’ve seen homemade recipes for the nectar.  Hmm.


But wait…this little feeder is cuter but it’s glass and more expensive.  I didn’t really care.  I just wanted some birds to come.

But…then I was overwhelmed…and went home with nothing.  I thought to try to do some research to learn something first so I could make a wiser decision rather by things for birds that aren’t even in my area.

So, it’s been a couple weeks.  I’ve not done any research.  I still want birds to come.  I thought I’d ask all of you.  Do any of you have luck with birds?  Can you share some advice?  I live in NE Iowa…my squirrels are out by the road at the front of the house….I have window and space for feeders in the landscaping areas that Craig and I put in.  Advise away…please??

41 thoughts on “Going to the Birds

  1. Gretchen Weaver

    I feed thistle seed to gold finches, I don’t have a lot of them but it’s a start. They should be more in the winter. Fall might be a better time to start feeding birds, when the natural seeds/insects diminish.

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  2. Cherie in St Louis

    I agree, fall is a good time to start with a feeder. If you try a finch feeder with nyjer seed it may take a little while for the finches to stay using it but they a fun to watch. Finches won’t eat old never seed so if the don’t start coming in a month or so you’ll have to dump the old seed for the doves and refill it. It totally worth getting them to come, espythe yellow finches that are a mutated yellow in winter and turn night yellow in summer, the males do that is. I’m in the St Louis are so you should get house finches too and maybe purple finches. Patience Jo, the take some party:-). I prefer the tube feeders for them.

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  3. Roxanne

    We’ve gone a different direction with our birds and only have a bird bath. It is outside the kitchen window and so fun to watch them getting drinks and taking a bath. During the hot summer it can be hard for them to find water. In the winter I take hot water out to melt what’s frozen. We also have fun planting shrubs and flowers that attract birds and butterflies.

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  4. Shonnie

    We put out black oil sunflower seed, and it attracts chickadees, goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, blue jays, grossbeaks, redpolls – by the dozens. The juncos, sparrows & mourning doves feed on the seed that is spilled on the ground. There’s even a cock pheasant that comes by occasionally! We also have a mesh bag (onion bag) that we hang suet in. This brings in the downy and hairy woodpeckers, and is also enjoyed by the blue jays. The trick is keeping the squirrels from emptying the feeders before the birds get their share! We have inexpensive hummingbird feeders that we use in May through August, while the birds are here. I’m in southeast Canada (Nova Scotia), so your mileage may vary!

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  5. Sharon Malone

    I have lots of birds at my feeders. I only use black oil sunflower seeds in them. I get cardinals, blue Jays, finches, woodpeckers, doves(on the ground), and other varieties in winter. You might get hummingbirds now as they migrate south. I get lots in spring and fall. We live in a rural area with both forest and open fields. You might not get as many in town since other people may be feeding them. Be patient eventually they’ll come to the feeders.

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  6. Jackie Hicks

    Check that red topped feeder on your shelf – it looks like the top to a hummingbird feeder. Feeding them is a simple mix – 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and mix until sugar is dissolved. Do not add red dye or anything else. Google to see when you should stop feeding them for your location.

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  7. Anita SS

    I’m in lower mid Michigan and I use an inexpensive mixed seed and then i mix in some thistle seed into it to also attract finches. I get all varieties of birds. Put the feeders out and be patient, they will come. A bird will find your feeder and spread the word to others. BUT put your feeders where your dog will not eat the seed off the ground. The bird droppings will make her sick!!!

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  8. Bobi

    Black oil sunflower seeds are the best and attract the best birds, BUT be warned the squirrels will find the bird feeders and dine there too! No matter if you get “squirrel proof” feeders or not. Homemade peanut butter suet in a suet feeder will attract lots of woodpeckers (as well as the squirrels.) If you love the squirrels, this will not be a problem but, we initially loved the squirrels too until they became a nuisance. They are super smart and will figure out any bird feeder you buy. Guaranteed! :-D

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  9. Debbie Burgess

    Jo, since you’ve already let the squirrels know there’s food at your address, spend a little more money up front and get some squirrel-proof feeders. Otherwise, they’ll clean out those cheap bird feeders in a an hour or two. We feed a good mix including sunflower seeds, and having a bird bath nearby also helps attract them. I’ve found that it takes awhile…as long as a week…for birds to start coming to your feeders, so don’t despair! Also, some birds like feeders and some prefer eating the seeds that fall to the ground. We got some pavers and made a little patio under our feeders, mainly because our ducks were digging a pond under the feeders (hahaha) but it also prevents those seeds from germinating and making a mess under the feeders. We wired four shepherd’s hooks together and have 3 seed feeders plus one humming bird feeder, with the pavers installed underneath, and the bird bath right next to that. With some research on what the birds in your area like to eat, and some good planning and a little investment, you can have a bird feeding station that will last for years.

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  10. Diann Smith

    I have a large feeder out and the birds will eat you out of house and home on that but we enjoy watching them. Bluebirds built in my box this year…so exciting AND I had NEVER seen this before……..I had YELLOW CARDINALS this year. Didn’t know they existed. I have red ones yearly but that was a shock. I have a secluded birdbath for them and thank goodness none of my near neighbors have cats. Love cats too but not around my birds.

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  11. Kim LeMere

    There is wonderful shop in Mason City called the Basic Birder and my mom gets all her feeders there. I know that cardinals like the Safflower seeds and the black oil sunflower seed attracts many types of birds. I have never liked the mixed seeds since so many birds pick threw it and lots of it ends up on the ground, such a waste and then it seeds itself in the yard. Make sure that you get the feeder to match the seed since the holes to eat are made to fit the seed and the bird you are trying to feed.
    I also feed the Niger seed, its wonderful for small colorful birds and the larger birds leave it alone.
    Here is a nice link about seeds for birds : https://www.allaboutbirds.org/types-of-bird-seed-a-quick-guide/

    Reply
  12. Karen

    you need squirrel proof feeders and even with those the squirrels will try to figure out how to get in them and might destroy them in the process. I actually despise squirrels as it has gotten to the point that I no longer feed the birds as the squirrels will be climbing all over my house and in the garden on the deck – I have given up feeding the birds because of those pest – I don’t get just one squirrel trying to get the food I will get 10!!

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  13. Vicki

    We feed a variety of birds with thistle, black oil sunflower seeds and a mix with suet for the woodpeckers. We also use squirrel proof feeders…..they will chew through plastic feeders in minutes. The birds drop plenty of seeds for the squirrels. I have found that red flowers seem to attract the most hummingbirds. I put out a feeder for hummingbirds and it was filled with ants by the end of the day…..yuck. A bird bath is great too just change the water often because mosquitoes will breed there. Good luck with your birds❤️

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  14. Ann Marie Burton

    One thing we planted this year (and they spread) are called Mexican sunflowers. they are bright orange and attract hummingbirds as well as finches. Not too bad as cut flowers either. I let one back corner go a bit wild (well contained as per husband) and with the feeders and bath in there, I have tons of birds.

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  15. Sheila

    I would wait with the hummingbird feeder until spring when they start migrating back to the north. Google to find when they start coming back to your area. They’ll also be attracted to flowers you have in your garden next summer. We also buy song bird seed to attract cardinals etc. If you look on the bag it will tell you the type of birds that type of seed will attract. We also have a feeder to attract finches, which also feed year round. It takes a little patience, but soon the birds will notice what you are putting out and reward you. Try not to hang them too close to a tree because the squirrels will drive you Crazy. Hope this was helpful.

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  16. Linda West

    I mix 4 parts water and 1 part sugar for my hummingbird feeder. I am in central Ohio. I just put mine out last week and they are eating it very quickly. I have had to refill it and it’s almost empty again. (I’m late this year) They are very fast but if you sit still you will see them.

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  17. Ruth

    I’ve read that the thistle seed germinates very quickly, so that then you have lots of thistles growing in your yard and they are very stickery!! Also they are difficult to get rid of. We have rabbits and squirrels, and a couple of times I have seen bluebirds, but often the cardinals, and jays. We don’t feed any of them here in Maryland.

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  18. Carla

    No squirrels by us. I buy an inexpensive mix that’s heavy on sunflower seeds. I go through a lot of suet especially in winter with the woodpeckers. I have great fun watching hummingbirds. I make my own nectar. They also feed on what is blooming. Right now that’s tiger lilies. Good luck. Don’t over think it. Spend most of your thought planning on thwarting the squirrels.

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  19. Sherry V.

    We don’t fill our feeders until the fall. By then all the seeds available through plants and trees are less plentiful and the birds that are around look for food.

    We have been lucky with suet feeders (we can get the cakes for about $2 each) and with packaged seed for “wild birds”.

    Here in NJ we get blue jays, cardinals, gold finches, starlings, and doves. Those birds are great to watch. But then we get the big black birds that take over the feeders (sometimes 20 – 30 of them at a time) and the smaller birds don’t have a chance.

    Good luck with your birding.

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  20. Edith

    We fed birds for quite a while. Hummingbirds were fun. We used a pre made mix and hung it close to our window so we could see them. We only fed them late spring to mid fall since they migrate. In May we put orange halves out on a nail to get orioles on migration. We use suet with grubs and bugs for woodpeckers. We used no waste feed and squirrel proof feeders otherwise you are feeding the squirrels. Feed with bugs brings in new types of birds. Thistle seed for finches. Hot fresh water in winter brings in lots of birds. It’s fun to watch them bathe. Cardinals like sprinklers for bathing. Good luck and have fun.

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  21. Kristy Smith

    I’ve had success with attracting hummingbirds using a cheap plastic feeder and homemade nectar (Add 1/4 C sugar to 1 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve. Let cool. Fill up feeder and hang in desired location.)

    Some hummingbirds migrate while some stay year round. Therefore, be sure to keep nectar full and thawed throughout the winter for those hungry guys that stay behind.

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  22. Donna

    Be careful where you put the feeders or you will have all kinds of things growing in your beds. We put ours in areas that we mow. Also the oil in Black oil sunflower seeds will kill the grass around the weeder but to me it’s worth it to see the birds, I do agree about squirrel proof feeders. They can go through a large feeder in a day and they bring ALL their friends.. I enjoy the squirrels but they don’t know when to stop eating. I have one feeder for them and squirrel proof for the birds.

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  23. Kathryn

    Good morning Jo! A website that is very interesting to explore is http://www.journeynorth.com. There is a lot of information on it about migration of birds, mammals, live cams, etc. In the spring you can view maps of the migration of hummingbirds coming back north! We usually put out hummingbird feeders between late April – early May. We live in central Illinois). We take them down in the fall after they have left and you will know because they eat almost non-stop before they head south. Your childcare kiddos will love watching the birds! Have a blessed day! Kathryn

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  24. Julie in WA

    If you want hummingbirds, plant lots of flowers that they love. I filled my backyard with flowers that would attract butterflies, but instead I have gotten hummingbirds! They now nest in my backyard and they divebomb me when I work in the garden! My neighbor has feeders, and they do go there for a quick snack, but they love my yard and stick around all year.

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  25. Wendy

    Hi Jo, Birds and squirrels are fun to watch! Unfortunately, we have one pesky little squirrel that loves to dig up my tulip bulbs and then chatters at me from my fence while I replant them. We usually only feed the birds in the late fall and winter when its harder for them to find food. Put your feeder in a place where you don’t mind “weeds” growing up amongst your plants. We have had to buy feeders that are squirrel proof because they kept getting into the bird feeders and scaring the birds away. To attract hummingbirds plant flowers they like. We have had feeders up for them but they like our flowers better. Hope you get a chance to enjoy the birds!

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  26. Judy

    We live in North Texas commonly called Metroplex. We have hummers, chickadees, wrens,nuthatch, common finch, blue jays, mockingbirds, Ted wing blackbirds. I’m sure there is more I don’t know. My hummer water is 4c boiled n cooled water with 1c of sugar. NO RED DYE. Get nuts n berries from Walmart for rest of birds. Put the food out, they’ll come. Be sure to feed through winter, not hummers they will leave. Enjoy those birds and all your squirrels.

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  27. Candy

    Here on the ‘wet’ coast, bird feeders (and compost) attract rats! I’m happy to just watch the birds fly by. Our neighbours have a hummingbird feeder near our window, and it’s fun to watch them (the hummingbirds, not the neighbours, LOL). They put a heavy wool sock over the food solution container in the winter so it doesn’t freeze. There are always hummers around in the winter, since it’s relatively mild here.

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  28. Wendy P

    Regular birds – I just buy the wildbird seed from Costco.

    Hummingbirds – make your own syrup – add 1/4 cup white sugar to 1 cup boiling water. Stir to dissolve – let cool – fill feeder. I’ve had both the fancy and the cheap plastic feeders. I would go with plastic – something that is easy to clean.

    Reply
  29. laurie

    I am kind of picky about what I feed the birds. I want it to be just as healthy as what they eat naturally. I never buy feed at the big box store. We buy all our feed from Wild Birds Unlimited. We currently have 10 feeders going ( lots of different kinds and locations). Normally we have multiple birds at every feeder for a good part of the day. It takes time to get birds in large numbers, Also, if you move feeders or rearrange feeders they may disappear for a while. They are skittish. If you want hummers it may take a while. This is our third year feeding hummers. The first year – zippo, the second year – once in a blue moon. and this year we have a male and female that visit the feeder multiple times a day. Persistence and quality food will work given time. Just make sure you keep if fresh, if it stays out too long it will get moldy.

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  30. Sheila

    If f you sprinkle a product called Preen on the ground before you hang the feeder, it will prevent the seeds from germinating and sprouting. We have found this especially helpful with the seeds for the Finches.

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  31. Lorene Holbrook

    My dad has about 10 hummingbird feeders. And about a gazillion hummers come. His neighbors complain that the birds love dad the best. He makes his own syrup. Just sugar and water. Lots of sugar so it’s very sweet. He has to fill them every day. Good luck!

    Reply
  32. Christi

    I have so many Humming Birds just keep putting a feeder up. Hang some red flowers or plant tube flowers. They will find you. Buy Homestead food, it’s an all natural red.

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  33. Sherry

    I’m a thrifty bird-feeder here in NW Iowa, feeding only black oil sunflower seeds & suet but I get a large variety of birds year-round. I buy a 40 or 50# bag of sunflower seed on sale at Bomgaars or Menards for around $14 or less, and will spend no more than 50 cents each for the suet that comes in square blocks. I use only quick-to-fill feeders, the kind with an easy open top because when the cold winds blow in January, I don’t want to spend any more time outside than I have to! Our feeders hang under our kids’ fort away from predators–we have problems with raccoons instead of squirrels. I’ve tried niger thistle for goldfinches, but they like the sunflower seed better. We also have blue jays, cardinals, several types of finches & woodpeckers, pine siskins, nuthatches as well as sparrows and doves. I always keep the feeders filled which keeps the birds around all year. They’re fun to watch & the kids will be fascinated. Just start simple; you can always get “fancy” after you get the birds’ attention.

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  34. Heidi S

    I have SO many birds, LOL I live in a rural area of central Oklahoma. Lots of critters and predators.

    I put out my hummingbird feeders in March to catch the scouts as they travel thru Oklahoma. By May I have 3 feeders staying busy. I will leave at least one fresh and ready thru the end of October, so any late travelers can have a snack as they migrate back south. Check the migration pattern for your area. Hummingbirds.net

    If you want cardinals to flock to your yard, put out black oil sunflower seeds. All the birds like them. The Cardinals love them. I set a small bowl with seeds in 2 shady spots and the birds feast. I buy the sunflower seeds in a 50 lb bag at the local feed store for under $15.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  35. Cathy Odle

    My grandfather used to put wren houses on a pole in the middle of a rose bush. The thorns kept the preditors ar bay, and the wrens loved it. Try that, a bird bath, and possibly a feeder. Wrens also like gourds made into bird houses. Tiny birds with a beautiful song.

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  36. Rhonda Russell

    Make sure you store the birdseed in an airtight container! I once had squirrels chew through my screen door to get the the black sunflower seeds I had been feeding them. They cleaned out a couple of pounds of seeds while I was at work. I had the screen replaced and they chewed through it again even though I didn’t have any more seeds. It took an entire winter for them to “forget” that they could get food from my apartment. When I moved, squirrels weren’t common in my area so I just put out a cheap wooden bird house with wild birdseed and they came. I only put seeds in every couple of weeks because they will eat you out of house and home.

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  37. Kathy

    Many years ago our middle daughter did a science fair project about what type of seed birds eat. Emily was very diligent about coming home from school and watching the 4 feeders we had stationed on our deck. The most popular was Black Oiled Sunflower seeds. We still feed this and it is more reasonably priced at the Farm and Home store. There doesn’t seem to be much waste and we feed cardinals, blue jays, tit mice, flickers, red and yellow finches, nut hatches and downy wood peckers. The squirrels like it also so be careful, you may need a squirrel guard for your feeders! This is a real “thing” not a person!

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  38. Roxie

    Jo – what I’ve learned in Cresco(not far from you) is amazing – we have over 30 types of birds visit our feeders. Hummingbirds typically come mid May & stay till Sept – we have not had many in the last month as they are busy with fresh flowers. I use the 1 part sugar to 4 part water ratio & have great luck, change it weekly. Also Mid may the Orioles, Indigo buntings, Summer Tangers appear – the Orioles like a water mixture of 1 part sugar to 6 parts water, their feeder is similar to the hummingbird feeder only usually orange. We have learned if you have cracked corn in your feeder you will attract more of the deer & squirrels. The food of choice is the nut & berries/fruit seed – they’ll clean that out so fast their food was costing more than ours! We typically buy the deluxe – it has shelled sunflower & no corn. We attract – goldfinches, house finches, wrens, bluebirds, blue jays, indigo buntings, summer tangers, sparrows, juncos, cardinals, grosbeaks, ground doves plus more, its fun to see the mating pairs. We also have a suet feeder for the woodpeckers & never knew there were so many kinds – Downy, hairy, red breasted & the mother of all the seldom seen Pleated. Also put out a bird bath – it is fun to see them stop in for a quick flick & drink.

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