A 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 


Choosing Bird Seed



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. 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. 


Common Feeding Problems

*Wet feed - leads to bacterial, mold growth, or insect infestation

*Unclean feeders - feeders that are dirty can lead to bacterial growth, mold growth, and insect infestation that can make birds ill.

*Inappropriate locations for bird feeders

*The presence of predators, or squirrels "poaching" from the bird feeder. 



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



1. Feeding the birds makes them dependent on handouts or distracts them from migrating. – NOT TRUE. Wild birds only get an average of 25% of their food from feeders. Feeders are a high help during winter, but the birds won’t necessarily starve if there aren’t any bird feeders. There is also a myth that it will keep them from migrating – definitely not true. It’s hard to resist the call of millions of years of instinct – your feeder will actually give them the much-needed boost of energy they need to get where they are going.


2. Birds will choke on peanut butter, and feeding them rice will kill them. – NOT TRUE. Worried that your leftover cooked rice will kill the birds, or that they might choke on that homemade peanut butter and birdseed treat your kids left out? Don’t! Peanut butter is a very nutritious treat for birds, and leftover rice is on type of kitchen scrap that the birds will eat happily. They won’t cause birds to explode!


3. Hummingbirds need red dye in their nectar.– NOT TRUE. It doesn’t matter if your hummingbird feeder has red dye in it or not - they will feed there regardness. In fact, many companies refuse to dye their nectar since natural flower nectar is clear, and there has been a rise in tumours in the liver and the bill of hummingbirds that has been linked to the usage of red dye in hummingbird feed. While hummingbirds are attracted to red feeders, it doesn’t mean you won’t have any visitors with clear nectar!


4. Birdseed never goes bad. – NOT TRUE. Insects and rodents are attracted to birdseed that isn’t properly sealed, and it can become mildewed, contaminated, or become dried out. If stored properly in an airtight container in a cool an dry area, it should last for several weeks or months.


5. Mixed seed is a bad idea for your feeder. - NOT TRUE. Mixed seed is excellent for attracting a variety of birds to your feeding station.


6. You don’t need to feed the birds in summer. – NOT TRUE. While summer might bring more natural food choices that are available, these are the same months when mom and dad are overworked trying to bring home the figurative bacon for their hungry broods and growing nestlings. Supplement food from feeders is easy and convenient for them, especially at a time where there is lots of competition. It can also make sure that the baby birds know where to return next year for a quick snack – making your birdfeeder a popular, multi-generational one.


7. Bird feeders don’t need to be cleaned– NOT TRUE. You should always make sure your feeder has excellent hygiene. Wash your feeders at least once a month to avoid seed contamination that might make birds ill.


8. It’s okay to feed birds stale bread – NOT TRUE. Bread has little nutritive properties. Bread is also more likely to attract predators, rodents and other pests.. It can also lead to diseases that infect both birds and humans. Bread is often a filler, but not necessarily good.