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Simple Steps To Kickstart Your Backyard Bird Feeding Hobby

Simple Steps To Kickstart Your Backyard Bird Feeding Hobby

One of our favorite hobbies to do at home is bird feeding! Feeding the birds can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, which means it can easily be a budget-friendly hobbies! For us, we started simple and have scaled up the types of feeders and foods we offer as we’ve grown the number of bird species that visit our yard, now we have multiple decorative wooden birdhouses in our yard.

Starting Out

If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend purchasing a low cost “foundational” feeder. Foundational feeders can hold a high-quality seed and nut mix, and can accommodate many birds at the same time. These feeders are often tube feeders with trays, hopper feeders with trays, or large seed cylinders. We have a large hopper feeder with a tray that holds a black oil sunflower seed mix. These feeders will attract a variety of local birds – for those of us in Minnesota these include chickadees, finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and cardinals.

A hopper-style bird feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds, and with two suet bricks, sitting on a ledge in front of a tree.
Our hopper feeder with black oil sunflower seeds and two suet bricks.

If you like your foundational feeder and are enjoying feeding the birds, you can expand to fat feeders, other tube feeders, finch feeders, or nectar feeders.

Fat Feeder

A tube bird feeder filled with suet balls, sitting on a ledge in front of a tree.
Our tube feeder filled with suet balls.

In addition to our hopper feeder, we offer suet balls (fat) in a tube feeder. The suet balls are very popular when it’s cold (winter, or when temperatures drop), and a favorite for many species of woodpeckers. We’ve even had a Pileated Woodpecker visit our feeder this season (although he was a little large for our tube feeder)! These are also cheap and easy to offer.

A nuthatch eating a suet ball while perched upside down on a tube feeder.
A lucky nuthatch, munching away on a suet ball.

Our fat feeder has actually had a fair amount of practical utility for us as well. The siding of our house was regularly terrorized by woodpeckers until we put up our fat feeder. Fortunately offering a more accessible food that the woodpeckers like has distracted them from our siding for over a year now!

 Peanut Feeder

A tube feeder filled with unshelled peanuts, sitting on a ledge in front of a tree.
Our tube feeder (same style as the suet ball feeder) filled with unshelled peanuts.

In another tube feeder we offer unshelled peanuts, which are a favorite for the nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers that frequent our feeders.

A black-capped chickadee perched on a tube feeder filled with unshelled peanuts.
Chickadees love the peanuts as a special treat!

If you are hoping to attract blue jays to your feeders, you’ll want to purchase peanuts in the shell, and a feeder that can accommodate the larger peanuts. Use caution though – while blue jays are beautiful to look at, they don’t always play nice with other birds. Attracting too many of them can scare off the other birds in your yard.

Finch Feeder

A mesh-style tube bird feeder filled with Nyjer seed, sitting on a ledge in front of a tree.
Our finch feeder filled with Nyjer seed.

We also have a feeder designated for finches, and have seen a dramatic increase in the number of American Goldfinches that frequent our feeders since that addition. This feeder holds Nyjer seed – it’s designed with a mesh of very tiny holes so the small Nyjer seed doesn’t fall out.

Nectar Feeders

Lastly, we offer nectar during the spring and summer for hummingbirds and orioles. We have two separate feeders, one that only offers nectar and is frequented most often by the hummingbirds, and one that offers nectar, grape jelly, mealworms, and fruit halves (we use fresh oranges).

An orange Oriole feeder filled with orange nectar, with jelly and dehydrated mealworms resting on the lid, with an orange wedge skewered onto the hanger.
Our oriole feeder offers nectar, jelly, dehydrated mealworms and fresh fruit.

Last year our hummingbird feeder was wildly popular with the hummers, so this year we thought we’d try our luck with the orioles, and I’m pleased to say we’ve already had a few visit. Their vibrant orange coloring is astounding, and they’re truly beautiful birds to view.

Two male orioles perched on an orange oriole bird feeder.
Two male orioles competing for space on our oriole feeder.

Next, we are hoping to offer a variety of foods to the birds on a large tray so we can truly get a handle on which foods are their favorites. This can also be a good first step, prior to purchasing a foundational feeder if you have a space to offer a tray with seeds, suet or butters, and fruits. This will allow you to see which food is favored by the birds in your area, and then offer that food consistently to them.

We can’t wait to get our tray up – what’s your next bird feeding project? Are you just starting out, or are you already feeding the birds, and if so, with what and which birds?

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