Here’s a good article on feeding the birds by the Editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
MAKE YOUR OWN BIRD FOOD: SUET & SEED MIXES
Our homemade bird food recipes can be made at any time of the year, but especially in the cold winter months when natural resources are scarce. When is it OK or not OK to feed birds? When should you put out bird feeders? See our tips.
For many of us, it’s a great joy to watch and study our feathered friends. In the winter, experts maintain that the best way to birdwatch is in a comfortable chair by the window (and we would agree). By keeping a feeder stocked with bird food, you can attract birds that will stay with you until spring.
IS IT GOOD TO FEED THE BIRDS IN WINTER?
Rest assured that it’s fine to feed birds during the cold winter months. Supplemental food actually helps birds during especially tough winters—and this will not affect bird migration. A number of factors trigger the urge for birds to migrate, but the most significant one is day length. When the days get shorter, certain birds move on, regardless of whether there are still filled feeders available for them.
During the rest of the year, it’s best to take feeders inside, as there will be plenty of other natural resources for the birds to take advantage of. Plus, bird feeders can be very attractive to foraging mammals, such as skunks, rats, and bears, which are usually not welcome visitors!
WHEN SHOULD I PUT OUT BIRD FEEDERS?
It varies by region, but typically, it’s not recommended to put out bird feeders until at least December. This ensures that hungry hibernators such as bears are already bedded down for the winter, and that the birds will have something to snack on when foraging becomes difficult.
For homemade suet, which can go rancid if exposed to too-warm temperatures, it’s best to wait until temperatures are consistently in the 40s (Fahrenheit) or below.
SIMPLE DIY PINE CONE FEEDER
If you have kids, it can be fun to make a pine cone feeder! You should need 4 items: pine cones, string, peanut butter, and bird seed!
- Find some pinecones. (Ponderosa are nice because of their larger size.)
- Wrap the string in a tight loop around the top of the pine cone, leaving enough to tie it to a tree or pole.
- Coat the outside of the pinecone with peanut butter and then roll it in bird seed! Use smaller seeds will ensure that seeds stick well, but mixed seed or black-oil sunflower seed will work too if you press the seed in well.
- Hang your feeder on a tree branch or pole and watch the birds enjoy their winter feast!
HOMEMADE BIRD FOOD RECIPES
Most people put out a bird seed mix, which birds do appreciate. However, if you really want to impress your avian friends, here are a few DIY bird food recipes we recommend:
A simple suet recipe that is beloved by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and many other backyard birds.
- Jack Dudley’s Woodpecker Pudding
A suet–peanut butter concoction that will drive all the wild birds, well, wild!
- Fine-Feathered Entree
Packed with nuts and seeds, this mix is a feathered-friend favorite.
- Junco Cornbread
This simple baked cornbread is quite literally for the birds—and boy, do they enjoy it!
- Homemade Hummingbird Food
Come spring, don’t forget the hummers! This simple recipe for hummingbird nectar consists of only sugar and water.
What’s most important is that you keep birds safe by keeping your bird feeders clean. Scrub out feeders with a 10 percent non-chlorinated bleach solution at least a few times a year, and certainly between seasons. Remove suet in hot weather because it will spoil quickly.
See our Wild Bird Food chart for more information on what kinds of foods different types of birds eat. Also make sure you choose a birdfeeder that fits the bird species you wish to attract!