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Seeds for the Birds
Bird Feeding Basics

Over 100 bird species in North America will supplement their diets with bird seed, suet, fruit and nectar feeders. While feeding birds, a few steps can be taken to ensure you "do no harm" to the birds. If you are not careful, you may unintentionally encourage window collisions, predation and the spread of disease.

What Works Best

Black oil sunflower and white millet are the seeds that attract the greatest variety of birds. Even though these seeds can be purchased separately, many homeowners find that it is easier to use a high-quality birdseed mixture that contains large amounts of both seeds.

Begin using only 1 or 2 feeders. Don't add additional feeders until birds regularly visit them.

Position feeders at least 10 feet from cover. This permits birds to easily escape most predators while helping keep squirrels away from feeders. If a feeder must be located close to a tree or shrub, encircle the base of the feeder with wire fencing. This helps reduce the chances that feeding birds will be captured by raptors, cats and other predators.

Offer feed at different levels. Some birds prefer to feed on the ground, while others like to feed at elevated feeders. If birds are slow to visit feeders, add pieces of white bread to the seed offerings. At times white bread will draw birds to feeders when nothing else will.

Avoid mixed seed. Put different seed types in different feeders. This reduces waste as birds will throw out what they don't want.

Do not put seed directly on the ground as this will lead to mold.

Keep cats inside, or at least place feeders well away from bushes where cats may hide to catch birds.

Keep Feeders Clean

Don't over-fill feeders. Stock them with only enough food to last a couple of days.

Keep seeds dry. Dispose of wet seeds before they become moldy. Remove and dispose of discarded seeds and hulls regularly. Wet seeds and hulls can promote the growth of fungi and bacteria that can be harmful to birds. Also, sunflower hulls contain a growth inhibitor that can suppress plants from growing near feeders.

Dirty feeders can be a source of disease, so keep them clean. Every few months disinfect feeders by washing them in a solution consisting of 2 ounces of bleach to one gallon of water. In addition you should clean feeders with soap and warm water once or twice a month. Thoroughly dry feeders before refilling them with seeds.

Winter Feeding

Once bird feeding begins in winter, continue stocking feeders with seed throughout the entire season. Bird feeding can enhance bird survival during harsh weather.

Bird feeding was once considered primarily a winter activity. Today bird enthusiasts feed birds throughout the year. In fact, some homeowners attract more birds to feeders in summer than winter.

Protect Birds From Your Windows

The number of birds striking windows near feeders can be reduced by placing raptor silhouettes on windowpanes. Installing screens over windows or hanging ribbons and others objects in front of windows also help prevent birds from colliding by reducing reflection in the window.

Stunned birds found below windows should be placed in a paper bag with the top loosely closed. Put the bag in a cool, dark place. Once the bird is alert, it can be returned to the wild.

If birds have struck your window, place feeders within 3 feet of the window to reduce flight speed during collisions.

Additional Resources:

General Bird Feeding Information:


Bird Watcher's Digest

Wild Birds Unlimited

Bird Conservation Information:

Partners In Flight

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Report unusual birds using feeders to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Nongame Conservation Section.

For more information, contact WRD's Nongame Conservation Section (478) 994-1438.

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