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Nearly anyone is able to attract wild birds in some way, and that may be why backyard birdfeeding is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the world. It’s important to keep in mind that the primary purpose of birdfeeders and baths is to attract the birds for our viewing pleasure—they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. So, in some sense, that makes feeders an artificial or unnatural feeding situation for the birds. Although it’s easy to fill a feeder with seeds or add water to a birdbath, there are a few points to keep in mind that will not only attract songbirds, but will help support healthy, happy bird populations everywhere.
The Most Important Birdfeeding Tip of All
Providing food and water for our pets is typically pretty easy, and we usually do it well enough to keep our furry companions healthy. But for some reason, many of us miss one important step when it comes to feeding our ‘wild pets’. Backyard birds appreciate the food and water we put out for them, but it is vitally important to make sure that the food and water, as well as the containers we’re filling, are very clean. Just as you need food that is clean and fresh to keep from getting sick, so do the birds.
What Bird Is That?
Don’t know who’s visiting your yard? With the help of a bird guide, you can answer that question. First, look at the following four keys to identification recommended by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Then use a good guide book or the Cornell online guide to narrow it down.
Myth: It’s important to stop feeding hummingbirds so they will migrate south as they’re supposed to.
Truth: Hummers rely on shortening daylength to guide their behavior. Sometimes you may see an occasional hummingbird at a feeder late in the season, but it is most likely on its way south, and is glad to find a meal and a place to rest. In any case, you should take down hummingbird feeders in fall and sanitize them before storing them for the winter.
Myth: If you put a baby bird back in its nest, the parents will smell the human scent on it and abandon it.
Truth: According to Cornell researchers, many bird species do not recognize their own young as being different from any other young bird, with a few exceptions. It is possible to return young birds to their nests without danger of their being rejected by the bird’s parents. However, it depends on the age of the bird and whether or not they really are ‘orphans.’ See What To Do If You Find a Lost Baby Bird for further information.
Myth: Birds will get sick on uncooked rice, so it’s better to throw birdseed at the bride and groom after a wedding.
Truth: Most birds are accustomed to eating uncooked grains as part of their natural diets, so no harm will come to them from eating raw white rice.
These are some of the best sources available for learning about birdfeeding, identifying birds, learning more about bird biology, and creating habitats that support native wild birds.
Putting out tasty bird treats will mean that sometimes you attract birds that bully others, or that you find particularly unenjoyable. Here are a few things you can try:
If you find a young bird that is capable of hopping or flitting around, or is able to clutch a twig firmly with its feet, it’s probably a fledgling that has purposely left the nest and is being watched over and fed by its parents. Returning them to a nest would probably result in their hopping right out again. What you can do is keep pets indoors or leashed for a few days, or try to keep an eye on it so that it stays out of harm’s way—like the sidewalk or street. If you find a younger bird that appears to have been blown or knocked from the nest, you may try to return it to its nest, if you can find it.
Do not try to raise a young bird yourself. You would not be able to teach the bird what it needs to know to survive in the natural world, nor would you be able to provide it with the nutrition and care it needs without expert knowledge and experience. In most cases, you would be violating federal and state laws (such as the Migratory Bird Act) that require permits for keeping wild birds. In any case, you may always contact a local wildlife bird rehabilitator who can tell you the best course of action. To find a local rehabber, call your local county conservation office or the state department of natural resources.