Spring bird feeding tips

Female cardinal Spring is the time to adjust your bird feeding system to accommodate springtime migrants, as well as the winter birds and permanent resident birds that have been visiting your feeders all winter.

The most delightful aspects of spring bird feeding are the variety of species and the stunning spring breeding plumages.

Foods

The biggest change necessary for spring is to increase the proportion of millet mix provided both in feeders and on the ground.

These birds and returning mourning doves all prefer the smaller seeds of millet-type mixes. By early May the millet can also attract indigo buntings.

Black oil sunflower seeds and cardinal mixes should also be provided for northern cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, house finches, and purple finches.

Suet is another staple that should be provided throughout the spring.

Keep finch feeders stocked with niger thistle to attract goldfinches, and any redpolls or pine siskins that linger from their winter visits to your feeders.

Feeders, shrubs and birdbaths

goldfinchThe best way to present all of the bird foods is to have several "clusters" of three to four feeders each. These should be at several locations in your yard.

A cluster of feeders offers the opportunity to provide different bird food in each feeder as well as on the ground near or under these feeders. This arrangement allows room for more birds as well as occasional visitors like squirrels.

Spring is an excellent time to make a temporary brush pile near your feeders. Brush piles should be about 10 feet from a feeder cluster.

Trim some shrubs or smaller tree branches, and make a pile of branches perhaps six to eight feet wide and three to four feet high. You don't need to use heavy limbs. Small branches with lots of twigs are fine. This provides small birds with hiding places where they can avoid being caught by migrating birds of prey.

It is also very important to have water available for migrating birds. A shallow bird bath or shallow pool with a recirculating water pump can provide dripping or splashing water that is especially appealing to birds. The best bird baths are shallow pools no more than one-and-one-half to two and one-half inches deep.

By the first of May, put out tray feeders with grape jelly, overripe bananas, orange halves, chunks of suet, finely crushed eggshells, corn bread, and small containers of mealworms.

Hummingbird and nectar feeders should also be put out by May first because they may be visited by warblers as well as early-returning hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles.

 

The bird-feeding techniques discussed here are included in a book by Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor, Wild About Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide. This book is available from Minnesota's Bookstore (1-800-657-3757).