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Insight Into Feeding our Feathered Friends

by Marianne Virag of Prairie Nest Boxes


Feeding the birds is important especially at this time of year. Food is less abundant and prolonged cold snaps can use up birds’ stored caches and last fat reserves leading to starvation.


There is good some reasoning behind not feeding birds during migratory seasons. Unless you are offering them natural foods like berries there are some studies that suggest their migratory patterns may be disrupted by placing feeders out during these times of year. Providing them with a constant source of food can keep them in one area for an “unnatural” amount of time. The goal is to get them fattened up before they migrate, not encourage them to stay necessarily.


A lot of people don’t feed birds during the summer either as there is usually an abundance of food available. We had lots of birds ignore the feeder we had up this summer and just spent their time searching through the garden and eating ALL of our honey berries! Unless you are putting out a specific food like peanuts for blue jays the birds probably won’t go through feeder food very quickly during the summer. There are some people you will talk to who insist on putting out food during nesting season- I totally get it- it’s really a matter of preference. The birds wouldn’t be feeding their chicks seed, so you’d have to invest in meal worms, which can get expensive.


Some foods really shouldn’t be out during the summer unless you are diligent about changing it out. Suet will melt in the heat and/or become rancid.


My suggestion to you would be to put up feeders during the winter months, and early spring then and stick with planting bird friendly bushes and trees for the summer and fall. Honey berries, mountain ash, Virginia creeper and grapes are all loved by local birds. If you do have jays then a peanut ring would be great any time of year. Lots of jays stick around for the winter so you wouldn’t be interfering with their migratory habits.


Here’s our own recipe I use for woodpeckers and nuthatches:

Prairie Bird Butter


-4 tbsp peanut butter

-4 tbsp shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds

-4 tbsp suet or animal lard (not vegetable lard)

-2 tbsp corn meal- you can add or subtract the corn meal until you get the consistency you like- this acts as a binder, so less is sometimes better.

Spread directly onto trees or hanging wood feeder.

Keep remaining refrigerated until ready to use again.

Best used when temperatures are near or below freezing.


It is essential- no matter what you choose to do as far as feeding goes- to clean out your feeders on a weekly basis. A 10:1 water and bleach solution that has been allowed to sit then thoroughly rinsed does the trick


I hope the above gives you some insight into feeding our feathered friends!


For further information and to check out the incredible Bird Nest Box creations... you can go here

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