Bird Feeder Fruit & Seeds
- Almost any juicy fruit is likely to attract hungry birds in a given region. Berries, apples, melons, oranges and grapes, given along with seed, offer an additional source of nutrition for birds at feeders. Raisins and currants that have been softened in boiling water and then cooled are also good energy sources for birds.
- Common North American species such as robins, thrushes, waxwings, bluebirds, mockingbirds, catbirds, thrashers and tanagers are fond of fruit. Orioles in the eastern United States are especially attracted to oranges. Cardinals, woodpeckers, jays and some warblers (particularly the yellow-breasted chat) may also make an appearance at fruit feeders.
- Set out small fruits such as berries and grapes on a simple platform feeder posted several feet above the ground to deter squirrels. Cut apples, oranges, melons and stone fruits in halves or quarters and nail them to a tree limb to prevent rodents from carrying off the pieces.
- Avoid buying generic birdseed--most commercial seed mixes are mostly golden and red millet, flaxseed and other fillers that birds will simply scatter away. Black oil sunflower seeds are extremely popular with a wide array of seed-eating songbirds, and striped sunflower seeds have tougher shells and appeal to cardinals and other species with thick bills. Safflower seeds, white proso millet (not red or golden millet), milo and nyjer seed are also popular with songbirds.
- Cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, doves and sparrows will jump at the chance to eat black oil and striped sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. Goldfinches, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, redpolls and pine siskins will also eat sunflower seeds. Millet appeals to ground feeders such as quails, doves, blackbirds, juncos, sparrows and towhees. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, western ground-feeding species such as Steller's jays, curved-bill thrashers and Gambel's quails prefer milo to sunflower seed. Most doves and finches will flock to feeders containing nyjer seed.
- Numerous seed feeder styles are commercially available. Tube feeders, made of clear PVC plastic, wire mesh or metal with perches for feeding, are ideal for sunflower and safflower seed. If the tube feeder has an attached tray, a greater number of species will be able to partake. Hopper-style feeders distribute most types of seeds. Nyjer seed feeders for finches resemble tube feeders with smaller feeding holes; finches will also come to "thistle socks," which are perforated oblong bags prefilled with nyjer seed. A platform feeder filled with millet or milo, set low to the ground, will attract ground-feeding birds.
- Fruits and seeds can rot and become breeding grounds for toxic bacteria, so it's important to clean feeders regularly and put out only the amount of food that birds will eat in two days before refilling. Because fruit on feeders spoils quickly, remove rinds and scraps after a few days. Offering fruit to birds only during cool weather will reduce the chance of spoilage. For seed feeding, only offer the types that birds will actually eat. Unwanted seed will collect on the ground and get moldy.
Thoroughly clean seed feeders once a month in a bucket of hot, soapy water with a capful of household bleach. If feeding fruit on a platform feeder, wash the feeder every couple of weeks to deter ants and bees.