Backyard Bird-Feeding: A Beginner’s Guide

There's a secret to attracting a wide variety of birds. Part of it has to do with being on location and having adequate cover nearby. But a large part of it has to do with how you set the table and what meals you provide. Place your feeder near cover, if possible. This normally will reduce the time it takes birds to find it. Once birds start feeding, slowly move the feeder to where you'd prefer it. Move it five feet or so every other day until you reach the desired location.

It's also important to start out with feeders birds readily come to; save the extravagant stuff for later, when the birds are visiting regularly. Tray feeders are probably the easiest to attract birds. Fly-through feeders - trays with roofs - also work well. Next in line are cylinder feeders and suet feeders. Window and upside-down feeders usually are best tried after birds are coming to an area. Regardless of which feeder you begin with, it's a good idea to place some seed on the ground around the feeder to get birds coming. They'll figure out the rest.

Black-oil sunflower seeds and suet cakes are probably the best table-setting combination a homeowner can offer. Others offerings also are very effective. Following is a list of what seeds and foods attract which species of birds.

Black-oil sunflower - House finch, house sparrow, white-throated sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, cardinal, blue jay, mourning dove, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, evening grosbeak, red poll, pine siskin, purple finch and others. More than 40 different bird species eat these seeds. Striped sunflower seeds also are a good offering, but aren't nearly as effective as black-oil seeds.

Peanuts, peanut kernels and hearts - Blue jay, downy woodpecker, hairy wood-pecker, red-bellied woodpecker, tufted tit-mouse, black-capped chickadee, cardinal, crow, white-throated sparrow, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant, white-breasted nut-hatch, red-breasted nuthatch, house finch, purple finch, evening grosbeak and others.

Peanut butter - Downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, white-breasted nut-hatch, black-capped chickadee, brown creeper and others.

Ear corn and shelled corn - Blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker, mourning dove, cardinal, ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, crow, raven and others.

Cracked corn - Mourning dove, cardinal, American goldfinch, dark-eyed junco, house sparrow, starling, blue jay, pigeon, ring-necked pheasant, red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, downy wood-pecker, hairy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, evening grosbeak, house sparrow, ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, crow, raven and others.

Proso millet - Cardinal, mourning dove, house finch, dark-eyed junco, blue jay, ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, house sparrow and others.

Niger thistle - American goldfinch, purple finch, house finch, dark-eyed junco, mourning dove, red poll, red crossbill and others.

Milo - Cardinal, mourning dove, blue jay, crow, dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, white-throated sparrow, ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey and others.

Safflower - Cardinal, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, mourning dove, house finch and others.

Beef tallow and suet cake commercial) - Downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-headed wood-pecker, red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, northern flicker, blue jay, black-capped chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, starling, tufted titmouse and others

Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797