Let's Take the Birds to Lunch!

bird feeding station

Why feed the birds?

Enjoyment! Bird feeding is one of the most popular recreational activities of people in the U.S. Of all the hobbies Americans enjoy, gardening is the most popular hobby, followed next by bird feeding. In 1985, 82 million people fed birds. Bird feeding is also becoming a big business. Each year, more than $1.1 billion dollars' worth of bird seed is sold in the U.S.

Bird feeding has even changed some migration patterns. Iowa's state bird, the American goldfinch, spends winters in Iowa because so many people supply them their favorite foods in the winter. Cardinals have expanded their winter range into Canada as a result of feeding.

To get started in bird feeding, you must first consider the basic needs of wildlife. Wildlife, just like humans, needs something to eat, protective cover where they can raise their young, shelter, and water to drink. The amount of food, water, and shelter in your yard and neighborhood will influence the number and types of birds that you will be able to attract to your bird feeders.

The best time to start feeding birds in Iowa is during October or early November. During this time, birds which will spend the winter in the area are setting up their feeding circuits. If you have your feeders up at this time, more birds will include your feeders in their feeding route. Try to locate your feeders where you can easily view them without disturbing the birds. Remember to hang your feeders where you can conveniently refill them. Also hang feeders near cover such as trees or shrubs. This provides perching areas while birds wait their turn to feed. If there are no nearby shrubs, you may provide cover by building a small brush pile or use old holiday trees. Be sure to place your feeders out of the wind if possible.

Bird Species and their Food Preferences

Black-oil sunflower Cardinals, blue jays, chickadees. evening grosbeaks, nuthatches. tufted titmice, purple finches, and downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers
Sunflower hearts White-throated sparrows, goldfinches. house finches, cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, evening grosbeaks. nuthatches, tufted titmice, purple finches, and downy. hairy. and red-bellied woodpeckers
Peanut hearts Blue jays, juncos, nuthatches, and downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers
White proso millet House sparrows, mourning doves, tree. field, and song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, and juncos
Nyger thistle Goldfinches. house finches. and purple finches
Cracked com Juncos. mourning doves. blue jays, white-throated sparrows. house sparrows, and grackles
Suet Downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers. nuthatches. flickers, and chickadees
Sugar water Hummingbirds
Seeds that are not preferred are milo, hulled oats. rape, wheat, and red proso millet.