Beginner's Guide To Backyard Birding

When you're looking at setting up a bird feeder, there is a number of things that you should look at and invest in. First off, you should learn your local birds. Some popular species that frequent backyards in our area include northern cardinal, black-capped chickadee, mourning dove, house finch, blue jay, white breasted nuthatch, Baltimore oriole, downy woodpecker, and the chipping sparrow. Then, when you're familiar with what types of birds are in your area, you need to choose a bird feeder and your bird seed. Once you've assembled everything together, it's a simple matter of installation and maintenance. 


Choosing a Bird Feeder

For the most part, unless you're trying to attract a specific type of bird, such as an oriole or a hummingbird, most birdfeeders will attract a wide variety of birds. It's the seed that matters more when it comes to attracting the birds. However, there are some things to think about when considering a bird feeder - material, aesthetics, and other animals. Squirrels are notoriously annoying when it comes to raiding bird feeders. You can buy squirrel-proofed bird feeders, or buy attachments or deterrants for other more generic feeders. 




Choosing Bird Seed

When it comes to picking your bird seed, you need to choose your seed based on what type of birds you like to see frequent your feeding station. Holland park carries bagged and bulk food, and we also run a recyclable pail program. Below are some of the seeds that we carry, and what birds prefer them. 


Sunflower – Sunflower is among the most favoured of all the seeds, so if you only want to deal with one type of seed, this one is preferable. Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, grosbeaks, grackles, and white throated sparrow all love this type of seed. 


Nyger seed – Nyger seed is probably one of the most expensive seeds that can be bought, but for good reason. It is usually just placed out in specially designed niger feeders that have small, narrow holes where the seed can only extracted by finches.


Peanuts – Peanuts are the nuts that are highest in nutrition and they have loads of calories - something hungry birds appreciate in the winter! Peanut butter is also another possible. An excellent craft for kids is to coat an item such as an empty paper towel roll in peanut butter and roll it in birdseed. Holland Park carries both shell-on and shelled peanuts. 


Safflower - If you're looking for a seed that's squirrel proof, safflower is the way to go! This small seed is high in protein and fat, and is a favourite of nuthatches, cardinals, jays, finches, chickadees, woodpeckers and doves. 


Suet – Suet is used mostly as a winter food. This is not only because it is high in calories, but because the suet tends to melt during the hot summer months. During the winter, birds need high caloric foods, so suet (beef or pork fat) is one of the best food items you can invest in for your feeding station. Chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blue jays, a startling will all enjoy the suet.


Hummingbird Nectar - Hummingbird nectar is a colourless, sugary liquid used in red hummingbird feeders. You do not need to have red nectar in order to attract hummingbirds - in fact, it can be harmful to the birds because of the colouring agents. We also carry oriole nectar and jelly.  


Bulk Birdseed - Holland Park carries two types of bulk birdseed, that can either be purchased by the bag or you can join our pail program, which allows for a bird seed pail to be re-used over and over again. We carry black sunflower seed in bulk, as well as a mixed bulk seed. 


Bagged Mixes - Holland Park also carries a variety of bagged mixes that are either a general birdseed or are specially formulated to attract certain species of birds.



Placing Your Bird Feeder

There are a few things you should consider when  you're placing your birdfeeder. 


Can you see your bird feeder? One of the main attractants when it comes to having a bird feeder is actually being able to watch the birds. What's the point in attracting all that colourful plumage and birdsong if you can't see or hear it? 


Is the bird feeder feeder in a safe location? You're setting up a bird feeder, not an all-you-can-eat buffet for the rest of the local wildlife. By putting your feeder closer to shrubs and trees (such as evergreens), you're offering shelter and refuge if a predator happens to come along. However, you don't want it too close - if squirrels, raccoons, can use branches to access it, you'll end up with a problem.


Oddly enough, having a bird feeder closer to your windows is considered safer - odds are if the bird hits it, they won't be going full speed and will have a better chance of surviving.. Either put it within 3 feet, or around 30 feet away. A south-eastern exposure is also best. Humminbird feeders should be placed out of direct sunlight, out of reach of cats, and in sheltered areas away from wind. 


Once you've followed these steps, all you need now is a comfortable chair, a pot of hot tea or a pitcher of iced tea, a pair of binoculars, and a book on the joys of bird watching and bird identification to pass a perfect lazy afternoon....especially if you're an indoor cat. 




Have more questions? Check out our handy dandy True Or False myth page on bird feeding and bird feeder care here