BIRD FEEDING

Bird Feeding is a very ancient human activity, dating back several centuries. It is now a popular year-round mainstream activity and has become a good business too. Bird feed is sold in a variety of stores, where sometimes a part of the profits from sales will go to bird conservation organizations. Bird seed can be bought in large quantities, just like dog food.

IMPORTANCE OF CLEANLINESS: When feeding birds and/or giving them water, it is extremely important to ensure that their sources of food and water are kept clean to prevent the spread of disease, for example trichomonosis in Purple finches and American goldfinches. A good source of information on how to properly maintain sources of food and water for birds can be found on the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative website.

In addition, this organization published in December 2017 a detailed report on ‘Strategies to Prevent and Control Bird Feeder Associated Diseases and Threats’. (To download a .pdf copy click on : CWHC Bird-Feeder Strategy – Dec. 2017).

Here’s more information on this topic, with links to click on to access it:
Bird feeder cleaning tips
How to prevent spreading diseases at bird feeders
How to tell if bird seed turns bad

There are also all kinds of models of bird feeders available, including plans to build our own, depending on the type of food and the bird species, and on the person’s budget. Some common bird feeders are described below.

THE SUET LOG

This bird feeder is a log with drilled holes in which beef suet is pressed. It is easy – and cheap – to make. Other feeds such as peanut butter can be used but beef suet is a less processed type of feed. The log is than hung on either a rope or from a branch. Due to the perishable nature of this type of feed, it can only be used in the winter or cold weather during the ‘shoulder’ seasons.

Northern flicker eating suet during blizzard, Feb.15, 2015 Stratford PEI - © Denise Motard
Northern flicker eating suet during blizzard, Feb.15, 2015 Stratford PEI – © Denise Motard

This video below is of the same northern flicker.

A variation on the suet feeder is the empty plastic netting bag used for onions or oranges. It is filled with chunks of beef suet and hung the same way as the log.

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THE SEED FEEDER

This is where there’s the most variety offered on the market. Feeding birds with seed however needs to be done in a careful way to avoid problems for the birds being fed. Examples: risk of contamination from molds if the feeder is not cleaned regularly and if moisture gathers with the seeds; increased risk of predation by cats and dogs around the feeder; risk of collision in windows if the feeder is close; competition from undesired species such as house sparrows, American crows or European starlings, or squirrels, to name a few.

American Goldfinches at feeders - North Rustico, PEI - Dec. 22, 2017 - © Matt Beardsley
American Goldfinches at 3 different models of seed feeders – North Rustico, PEI – Dec. 22, 2017 – © Matt Beardsley
Evening grosbeaks at bird feeders - Carleton, QC - circa 2016 - by Daniel St-Laurent
Evening grosbeaks at bird feeders – Carleton, QC – circa 2016 – by Daniel St-Laurent
This is an unsophisticated but efficient model of a bird seed feeder (by Audubon) for black sunflower seeds.
This is an unsophisticated but efficient model of a bird seed feeder (by Audubon) for black sunflower seeds.

FEEDING BY HAND

Feeding the birds by throwing them seeds or bread crumbs on the ground or feeding them right from our hand is deeply rooted in human civilization. Whether it is feeding the pigeons at Trafalgar Square or being the Bird Woman in Mary Poppins or feeding seeds to a black-capped chickadee as per photo below, humans thoroughly enjoy feeding the birds.

Black-capped Chickadee feeding in hand - Summerside, PEI - July 2016 - © Marie Smith
Black-capped Chickadee feeding in hand – Summerside, PEI – July 2016 – © Marie Smith

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THE NECTAR FEEDER

In PEI this type of feeder is for the ruby-throated hummingbird. Island Nature Trust has a brochure on how to properly feed this bird. The basic nectar recipe is easy to do at home: one part of white sugar for four parts of water, boiled and cooled. No dyes or artificial sweeteners.

Hummingbird feeder - photo by Denise Motard
Hummingbird feeder – photo by Denise Motard
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, immature male, at feeder - Grand Tracadie, PEI - Aug. 20, 2017 - © Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, immature male, at feeder – Grand Tracadie, PEI – Aug. 20, 2017 – © Matt Beardsley
Ruby-throated hummingbird at a different model of a feeder - Stratford, PEI - May 29, 2017 - by Michele Lawlor
Ruby-throated hummingbird at a different model of a feeder – Stratford, PEI – May 29, 2017 – by Michele Lawlor

Video below of a male ruby-throated hummingbird sipping such a nectar:

Another type of nectar feeder is shown below, for the Tui bird (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae). It is a horizontal bamboo log filled with a specially-made syrup. Other, more expensive, models exist too.

Tui birds at the feeder - Te Kainga Marire, NZ
Tui birds at the nectar feeder – Te Kainga Marire, NZ

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WATER SOURCES

Birds drink water from any available source in their environment. Sometimes the water they’re drinking doesn’t look very clean – do they get sick from it? Many people will add a water source for birds in their gardens or back yards, such as a bird bath, which birds also use for drinking. It is important to keep this water clean, particularly on hot days.

The drinking container for the wood pigeon is more rustic – a naturally carved stone installed on top of a ‘slice’ of lumber about 2.5 meters (8 feet) from the ground.

One model of bird bath, which birds also use for drinking.
One model of bird bath, which birds also use for drinking, so it needs to be cleaned very frequently.
Wood pigeon sipping water - Te Kainga Marire, New Plymouth, NZ
Wood pigeon sipping water – Te Kainga Marire, New Plymouth, NZ

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