How To: Feed Your Feathered Friends

By MDC | January 1, 2022
From Xplor: January/February 2022

Choosing a Feeder

Different kinds of feeders attract different kinds of birds. Putting up more than one feeder will keep bully birds from hogging all the food — we’re looking at you, blue jay.

Tube feeders with compact perches are best for small, agile birds like chickadees, titmice, and goldfinches.

Hopper or platform feeders are better for larger birds like blue jays, northern cardinals, and doves.

Suet cages attract woodpeckers, wrens, and nuthatches.

Keep It Clean

You wouldn’t want to eat off of a dirty plate, and your feathered friends don’t want to either. Wash your feeders in soapy water about every two weeks. Let them dry completely before filling them with seeds.

Different Treats for Different Tweets

What should you serve at your bird buffet? Black-oil sunflower seeds attract the widest variety of birds. Millet is good for birds like sparrows and doves that search for food on the ground. And suet cakes work best for insect eaters like woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Offer Shelter

When possible, put your feeders near trees and shrubs — but not too close. Birds need shelter from wind, snow, and predators. But bushes also offer hiding places for cats and other bird munchers. Hanging feeders about 10 feet away will give birds the best chance.

Location, Location, Location

Placing feeders within 3 feet of a window is the best way to keep birds from crashing into the glass. Birds are more likely to notice the window, and even if they don’t, they aren’t likely to be flying fast when they take off and land at the feeder.

Baffle the Squirrels

Bushy-tailed bandits can gobble seed by the bushel. Discourage squirrels by putting baffles — saucer-shaped or tubular pieces of metal or plastic — below or above your feeder.

Don’t Forget Water

Like all animals, birds need water to survive. To keep a thirsty bird’s whistle wet, fill a shallow pan or birdbath with water. An immersion-style heater (sold at bird-feeding stores) will keep the water from freezing. Change the water every day to keep it fresh and clean.


Putting up bird feeders is a great way to keep your beak-tipped buddies well fed all winter long.

This Issue's Staff

Alexis (AJ) Joyce

Noppadol Paothong
David Stonner

Marci Porter
Les Fortenberry

Cliff White

Matt Seek

Laura Scheuler

Stephanie Thurber