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 Great tips for attracting new birds to your backyard

 Backyard Bird Watching FAQ's



Hi Birdman

What do you consider the top 3 best squirrel proof bird feeders to buy? Jimmy M. New York

 Jimmy, I would have to say there are many well designed squirrel poof bird feeders, but if I would have to pick my favorite squirrel proof bird feeders out of all our reviews, I would have to pick the following:

The Brome Squirrel Buster Plus With Cardinal Ring Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder-Great weight activated design, excellent price, top warranty. Our number 1 favorite. The cardinal ring will reel in the most colorful backyard bird.

The Droll Yankees Flipper Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder- Unique fun to watch squirrel spin off design, large capacity, excellent warranty

The Heritage Farms Absolute II Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder, Chew proof Fort Knox metal design, weight activated perch system, great warranty.

These 3 top rated squirrel proof bird feeders 2016 will keep squirrels looking for another place to find a meal. The antics of the squirrels trying to raid your bird feeder for a free meal will leave you with hours of laughs and save you money in bird seed. You will be feeding birds not squirrels. You can't go wrong with any of these superbly designed squirrel proof bird feeders. Hope this helps! Birdman  

Hello Birdman,

Often wondered, do birds sleep at night and where do they go?



Birds do sleep at night and usually find a branch or secluded spot where they may close there eyes and puff up there feathers in order to keep warm. They may tuck one leg in and turn their head into the feathers and keep warm like they are in a down feather coat. They sometimes stand on one leg and are able to do that without falling from their roosting spot because when a bird places weight on its feet, the muscles in the leg force the tendons of the feet to tighten, keeping the foot closed. It sure would be convenient if we could do that. It would make camping even more fun.

Happy Bird Watching


Hi Birdman,
I love cardinals and would like to attract them to my yard. Do you have a cardinal birdhouse?

A Minnesota bird lover

Unfortunately, there really is no such thing as a cardinal birdhouse. Cardinals mate for life and their favorite breeding habitat include shrubby areas, thickets or areas with a very dense undergrowth. These areas can either be found in suburban, city or open woodland areas. Cardinals also prefer the edges of woods, hedges and vegetation around houses. Sorry to disappoint you but there really is no cardinal birdhouse. Try attracting cardinals with safflower or sunflower chips on a platform type feeder. Safflower seed is your best bet for attracting these beautiful birds. If anyone does have a picture of a cardinal nesting in a birdhouse, please send it our way to post on our web site.
Good Luck

1 Hello Birdman,
I have about had it with the Starlings. Help! Starlings are trying to nest in my barbeque grill. I went out to use my barbeque grill and the birds had built a nest. It wasn't quite complete and I removed it, cleaned the grill with bleach and water, rinsed it down and went back in the house. The next day they had already started building another. What can I do other than get a good cover. It seems they go thru the vents in the grill. Al


When your hot your hot as they say! It can be a problem during the nesting season and things usually calm down after the nesting season and guess what, I had the same problem. I resolved my problem by leaving the grill door open and putting foil over the grate so the birds would see something flashy. It worked! They quit trying to nest in the grill and found a new home. Hope it works for you. Birdman

NOTE:For those grill manufacturers that read this column, how about putting mesh screen over the holes and vents. This would be a very good idea since most folks like to keep their grills clean and sanitary.

2. Greetings Birdman,
Have had a bird bath, mister, and pond for years and yes it does attract birds but I am looking for a unique way to attract birds to other areas of my yard Any suggestions? Jack
Iowa Bird Lover

Remember the moving sprinkler? The original National Traveling Sprinkler is still around. Most folks probably never think of this, but how about a moving sprinkler? Since birds love to cool off from the hot sun, this would allow you a convenient way to water your grass and make the birds happy at the same time and attract them to all areas of your property at different times. A fun way to attract birds with sound as well as a mist of water, and also keep your lawn looking good at the same time. A blast of the past can also put a smile on your face as well.
Have fun,

3. Dear Birdman,
I am going through tons of bird seed, how can I lower my bird seed costs without starving my birds? I live in a wooded subdivision.
Milwaukee WI.

You are probably feeding more squirrels than birds. A quality squirrel proof bird feeder would be your best bet. If you can eliminate the squirrels, you can eliminate part of your bird seed costs. A weight sensitive squirrel proof feeder such as the Absolute Double Sided Squirrel Proof Feeder would also help eliminate some of the large undesirable birds that are eating you out of a house and lot.

4. HI Birdman,
We are hanging wren houses (in Iowa)and need to know how far apart they need to be.


Really there is no distance, but it would be to your advantage to place maybe three within a half acre area which is usually the size of the territory for the male wren. Wrens have a tendency to nest anywhere and in anything but they also have a tendency to build nests within more than one birdhouse and then abandon all but one. The female arrives and decides which one will be used.
Conclusion: Most males think they are in control of there house but only the smart ones know they are not. We all know who rules. If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! Happy Bird Watching!

5. Hello Birdman,
This is not a bird question but a question about an item that I had seen on the east coast called the Weather Stick. My question is does it really work to predict weather?
Janet from NJ

Amazingly, The weather stick does work to predict weather. The stick goes up when the weather is going to be good and down when the weather is going to be bad, in fact it is sometimes actually ahead of a regular barometer when it comes to predicting the weather, in fact I have read articles where surfers actually use the weather stick to tell when the surf is going to be up or down. In England, some surfers swear by the weather stick. It is a great novelty item that actually works and is fun to give as a gift to others. Even better, the weather stick will is biodegradable. Backyard Bird Watcher does sell them. Here is a link to the Weather Stick.
Happy Bird Watching too!

6. Birdman HELP!
My hummingbirds were feeding at my hummingbird feeder for a long time without any problems but recently it seems like more bees are feeding than hummingbirds. How can keep bees away from my hummingbird feeder?

Bees can be guided to a bowl filled with a 1 to 2 parts sugar/1part water mix. Place a bowl in a location not too far from the hummingbird feeder. If the plate or bowl is yellow that would be even better, because bees are attracted to the color yellow. The bees will, in most cases, move over to the bowl rather than the feeder. Once the bees are attracted to the bowl, move the bowl in a sunny spot a little farther away from the feeder, preferably at night because there will be less activity. After a few days of moving the bowl, the bowl will be far enough away to allow hummingbirds to feed on their feeder rather than the bees. The bees will be at the decoy bowl. You now will have a new bee feeder as well as a hummingbird feeder BUT eventually you will be able to eliminate the bee feeder of course.
Happy bee feeding, I MEAN hummingbird feeding.

7. Where do hummingbirds nest?
Jerry from Tucson

Hummingbirds usually nest in trees and if you are lucky enough to see these nests, they are amazingly small (usually the size of a walnut.) and usually contain no more than two eggs the size of a bean. The female runs the show as in most households, (even though we males think we do, The Birdman knows we aren't fooling nobody!) but anyway, the males main job is lookout man. He looks for predators while the female does the work of building the nest and rearing the young. After the young are born they go their separate ways. But there is a new device called the Hummingbird House which has been successful at attracting hummingbirds to nest on its perches.

8. Hello:
I have a question regarding cleaning a bird bath--without harmful chemicals--what can i use that will not harm my yard and the feeder.. I have a concrete feeder -very heavy-- can you help me with a non toxic cleaner that will do the job to remove algae. Thank You for your help in advance--Bird Lover and Watcher--Tina

We have a product in our birdbath category which should work for you. The product Carefree Birdbath Protector is safe for birds and wildlife.

Does your bird bath look like this?
Click on this link:Birdbath Protector.

9. Hello!
I recently became interested in birdwatching and in order to get a closer look set up a few bird feeders in my backyard. My question is: how much is too much or not enough? It seems I could fill my feeder twice a day...and that I go through quite a bit of feed per week ($$$). Being new to this, and realizing that every situation is different I have no way of gauging what is a normal amount per day or per week. I know that birds aren't like fish in that they won't overeat, but do they tend to take the food and hide itfor later? Could that be why I am going through so much food? Also, I have a new birds nest under my awning and I don't want to disturb it (fun to watch!) but we did plan on painting our awnings this spring. After the babies hatch and fly away is it safe to assume it will not be used again or is it used repeatedly by the same or other birds?
PS...I live in Western PA...
Thanks! Gina

It sound like you are feeding the whole neighborhood. I would first of all make sure I am using quality food. If it is a mix, make sure it is not a mix with a lot of Milo. Milo is a filler seed used by some companies to keep the price down on the seed mix. You get what you pay for. Milo has a darker brown color and you can usually tell by looking at the mix. Birds do not eat Milo. Milo ends up on the ground for you to clean. Keep in mind you are throwing money away when you buy a cheap mix, it ends up on the ground and you are paying for it. A cheap mix has a large amount of this brown seed. Chain stores carry mostly cheap mixes. Buy your seed at a good wildbird store. Yes it will cost more, but the birds will eat it and you won't be cleaning up as much under the feeder.
Another suggestion is to set up separate feeding stations with different seed.

Safflower for cardinals.
Thistle for goldfinches
Peanuts for bluejays and woodpeckers
Suet for woodpeckers.
Keep in mind that squirrels can be a problem without the right feeders.
Invest in quality feeders that serve the purpose for your situation, for example squirrel proof feeders, platform feeders for cardinals, thistle feeders for goldfinches and suet feeders and squirrel proof suet feeders for wood peckers, upside down suet feeders and upside down thistle feeders for clinging birds, this will eliminate birds that you don't want to attract. These feeders are all available on our website with many tips for feeding birds.
In short you will use less seed and attract the birds you want. If squirrels are a problem in your area, by all means, buy good squirrel proof bird feeders. It will save money in the long run and and you won't have to replace feeders.
If you have squirrels think metal (NO chewing) not plastic. Before you do anything get a good book on attracting birds and learn as much as you can about bird behavior and the food and feeders most appropriate for specific species of birds. The Stokes line of books is a good place to start and a good field guide for your area such as the Petersen field guides series to help identify the birds in your area is a good idea too.
These tips will save you money in the long run and food costs as well.
As for your other question about the birds nest. Most birds will not use an old bird nest. It is safe to assume that the old nest can be removed after nesting is done. Sometimes birds will build nest on top of old ones as is the case with robins on occasion. I hope this answers some of your question. Time limits our responses.
Most of all have fun and happy bird watching,

10. I live in Iowa where winters are cold and snowy. I have been told I should quit feeding my humminbirds so they will go south. Is this true and if so when should I do so.
Thank you

Keep your feeder up until the first frost so that any late hummingbirds will have a source of food for extra energy for their long migration south. Hummingbirds migrate in response to changing length of daylight as well as other things, not the availability of food.
Happy Bird Watching,

11. Dear Sir:
We have a wonderful bird habitat and have enjoyed watching many varieties of birds year-round. Recently a red-tailed hawk has discovered our bird buffet and has been helping himself. Can you suggest ways to convince this guy that he is not welcome - without doing him any harm?
Clueless in Idaho.

You can always expect unwanted predators when you feed birds this is part of nature. Red tailed hawks may have a territory up to a square mile. My suggestion would be to shelter your feeders a bit. Since many people put there feeders in open areas so that they can see them better, you may want to move them to an area closer to the bushes and trees. This would allow the birds to move to a sheltered area quickly but this may also attract other predators such as cats who enjoy climbing trees for there meals. Unfortunately hawks get hungry too. By feeding birds, we sometimes gather a meal in one location for them. It is kind of like opening a new restaurant unfortunately.
The other option is to temporarily stop feeding birds in hopes that the hawk may find a new restaurant. You may also want to look at some of the caged feeders in our squirrel proof feeder category, these feeders would allow the birds to feed within the protection of a cage to help protect them from predators, otherwise let nature take its course. Thanks for your email.
Good luck,

12. I am having a terrible time with sparrows and now a squirrel problem. They are building nests in my retractable awning.I just spent 1000 bucks fixing my awning because the squirrel ate through the cable to the motor and 4 layers of the awning and I just after 3 weeks of having it fixed now, they are back chewing on the end of my awning AGAIN. I keep batting the sparrow nests out of there, but come fall they will be right back building them. I am at my wits end.


Sound like a pretty rough crowd. My best advice would be to stop feeding the birds at least for a while. Feeding the birds will bring more squirrels and other wildlife and it sounds like you don't need anymore wildlife. You didn't say what kind of area you live in(city,suburban,rural). Sounds like it could be a wooded suburban area with a lot of squirrels and not enough food for the over populated squirrel population. Sometimes urban sprawl will contribute to too many squirrels in a small wooded area because there is no where else to go, another reason for villages to have more open space areas. You may want to contact the county about your squirrel dilemma and see if something can be done to lower the squirrel population if it is a matter of over populations (possibly trapping and moving elsewhere). At this point, my best advice would be to stop feeding the birds. When you do resume the feeding it would probably be best to feed the birds straight safflower seed which can be found at many nurseries and wildbird stores. Safflower seed would not be as desirable to squirrels. Your best bet would be to avoid Sunflower and any type of nuts which would be a squirrels favorite.
The Droll Yankee FLIPPER Squirrel Proof Feeder would be a good choice for a squirrel proof feeder and maybe some Upside down feeders filled with thistle seed (also called Nyger seed), which would eliminate the sparrow problem if you must feed birds. It would also help with the squirrels.
Good Luck

Bird Song Hero: The song learning game for everyone

13. Hello,
I have been feeding birds for years but I always seem to have one problem in the spring and that is the deer seem to be attracted to my garden as well as my bird feeders. How can I continue to enjoy two of my favorite hobbies of feeding birds and vegetable gardening without being annoyed by deer that destroy my feeders and ravage my garden


We have found an item that we feel works better than any to keep deer away. It is called Shake Away and comes with a money back guarantee from the manufacturer. Shake Away is not a product that deer would try to taste but an ALL NATURAL granular powdered predator urine product. Shake-Away is a Coyote Urine Powder that will create a misleading image that coyotes are present in your lawn or garden and this will help direct deer away, as the odor of a coyote is a danger signal to deer. Shake Away is also available for deer, skunk, rabbits, squirrels, moles, cats and other critters and the powder works 10 times longer than liquid. Try it and enjoy your favorite hobbies again.
Good Luck

14. Since we moved to our new farm, my husband and I have enjoyed watching all the wild birds from our picture window. We've been successfully feeding several species in front of the house. Recently, a mockingbird moved into our yard, and is chasing most of the birds away. It's aggravating, as we have just under two dozen species of birds in our yard throughout each day. The mocker is chasing away some of my favorites, like the chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, and warblers. How can we get rid of him, or encourage him to adopt a new territory?
K.M. Charlottesville, Virginia

My answer is Good luck! Mockingbirds have a tendency to croon all night without a care and still manage to defend its territory all day and tirelessly protect its young against predators. They can mimic the sounds of other birds animals etc. to confuse others when necessary to protect its territory. Not a bad thing. Think of them as a great symbol of America. We could use them on the front lines.
But on a serious note, I would suggest multiple feeders spread with some distance between them. Mockingbirds are more of an insect, fruit, suet eating bird. Obviously the more fruit trees you have would not help either. You may want to put suet feeders, fruit feeders and possibly feeders with mealworms in an area of the yard away from other feeders, maybe towards the back of the yard which might attract the mockingbirds there. This may help keep them farther away from seed feeders in the front part of the yard. Some of the caged type feeders that we sell on Backyard Bird Watcher would give small songbirds some protection and security. Some of the adjustable dome feeders such as the Droll Yankee Big Top would be good also to let smaller birds in and keep larger birds out. It is a difficult question with very few answers, but I know one thing, they can't be everywhere at once, as much as they try so keep the feeders far apart and confuse them a little.
Good Luck

15. How can I keep robins from flying into my windows this spring, Last year I found a few of the little darlings dead. What causes this to happen?

In most cases this happens during nesting season, birds see their reflection in the glass and think it is another bird invading their territory so they react aggressively against the invasion to protect their family. you can try newspaper on the windows from the outside, but they may move to another window. Sometimes putting somthing on the window such as a hawk sillouette may help too. You may also try Glass Wax window cleaner on the outside of the window, it leaves a white film on the window, when the birds quit hitting the window you will be able to wipe it off and have the cleanest windows in town otherwise you may have to put up with it through nesting season.
Good luck,

16. Hello Birdman,
What is the best type of binoculars to buy for bird watching? I enjoy looking out my window as well as getting out in the forest nearby.
Janie from Iowa

The best general binoculars for birdwatching are binoculars ranging anywhere from 7 x 30 to 8.5 x 50. The first number is the power of the binoculars to magnify an object, for example if binoculars are 7X30 the 7 would mean seven times magnification. If they are less powerful than this, you will not be able to see the birds well and any more powerful than 7 or 8 times magnification and it may be difficult to hold your hands steady although some bird watchers may prefer up to 10 magnification if they have extremely steady hands.
The second number, such as 30 or 50, refers to the size in millimeters of the diameter of the lens at the far end of the binoculars. The larger the opening, the more light is let through and the clearer you will seethe birds. Always get the best quality binocular that you can afford, it is worth it.
Good luck,
17. Hi,
I have a number of birdhouses that I plan on putting up and would like to know if any bird desired can be encouraged to nest in a birdhouse.
Joy (A Rookie backyard bird watcher)

Unfortunately all birds will not use birdhouses, in most cases, birds that would excavate nesting cavities (usually in hollow trees) for themselves, as well as, birds that would use an abandoned nesting cavity of another bird (with a few exceptions), would be most likely to nest in birdhouses. When cavities in trees are not available and today there are a lot less because of urban sprawl and builders that encourage the removal of most trees in order to build a subdivision easier rather than working with the trees. It is possible to encourage certain species to nest in your birdhouse by making the size of the hole a certain diameter, for example a 1-1/2" diameter hole would be desirable to attract bluebirds and a 1" hole on a wren birdhouse would be attractive to a wren etc. Keep in mind that any hole larger than 1" in diameter may attract sparrows before anything else.I hope this answers your question, now get the birdhouses up and give the birds a place to nest this spring. Your housing will be appreciated and you will enjoy the show.
Happy Bird Watching,
18. I have a concrete birdbath and was wondering why the water changes orange after a few days. There is no algae, slime or anything that would indicate a need for cleaning. It just turns orange. Any suggestions on what i can do?

Your birdbath is probably turning orange from rust which is either in the atmosphere or the tap water pipes which you may use to fill your birdbath. It will usually stick to the bottom of the birdbath and make it more difficult to clean. You may try filling your birdbath from a different source and see if it helps or try bottled water if possible. We also sell a birdbath enzyme cleaner that can be added to your birdbath water. If used once a week and rinsed as directed, the enzyme cleaner will keep the rust from sticking to the bottom of your birdbath. You may still get rust but it shouldn't stick to the birdbath. This product can be found in our "birdbath category" on our home page.
Good luck

19. Hi,
I live in Eastern Ontario, Canada,I have been feeding birds in my backyard for as long as I have lived in this house. This year I have a hawk (I think), looks like a Merlin, harassing all the birds, but especially the Blue Jays. I find it very disturbing when the hawk is here chasing all the birds away from my feeders. I have also noticed that the blue jays are not as noisy as they once were. Will this hawk stay here for the winter? or will it move on?
Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.

Unfortunately hawks get hungry too and this hawk prefers birds sometimes larger than itself and may on occasion take small mammals, lizards, snakes etc.The Merlin is mainly a ground-nesting bird, and keeps to its territory year after year, although the actual nest site may change. Hopefully it's nest site may change and help your situation. Maybe a platform type feeder with a roof may help protect the bluejays. Bluejays like platform type feeders. A few modifications to the feeder roof to extend it further may help also.
Happy bird watching and good luck,

20. If a bird ingests rice, will it be harmed? My neighbor is spreading rice around in an attempt to kill pigeons. We are objecting to the rice not only because we don't want her killing the pigeons (a real nuisance) but also because, if rice will kill pigeons, we fear the effect it will have on doves, quail and (in the winter and when the insect supply is low) the meadowlarks, as well as other seed-eating birds.
We look forward to your response.

Rice should not harm birds. It has been said that rice may swell in a birds stomach and harm it. Most experts say that this is a myth. Many birds including the Bobolink known as the "rice Bird" eat uncooked rice in the wild with no side effects.
While rice is fine for birds, many wedding parties now throw bird seed this way the birds can help you clean up after the wedding.
Happy Bird Watching
The Birdman
21. Hello,
Is it true that a birds feet can stick to metal perches in cold weather. I have just purchased a feeder and realized that the perches are metal. The winters here get pretty cold.

Since birds do not have sweat glands in their feet, it is not likely. Most experts will say that without sweat glands, moisture will not be a problem and there feet will not stick to metal perches. Just make sure your tongue is in when filling the bird feeder!
Have fun watching the birds, The Birdman

22. In west central Illinois the Purple Martins arrive March 15th (scouts) and leave August 15th or close to that date. I was under the impression barn swallows arrived slightly later and I could mark my calendar when they left about August 15th yet here it is the first week of September and I see them still flocking together. Is it the particular weather of the season or do they usually remain at their nesting home base this late? Also, after many years of no nesting swallows because the sparrows drove them out of a three sided shed, this year they spied a hole in the roof from a blown off panel and successfully raised two babies in another otherwise closed shed. After they left, I had to replace the roof panel but I cut a hole (apporximately 12" square) in the side of the shed near the top thinking since they had success this year they will return next year and will use the new entrance. What is your opinion, am I correct in thinking they will use it?
Thank you for your time and expertise.

Generally barn swallows will begin their fall migration anytime from the 3rd week in July thru early October (in your area), so it would not be unusual to still see them around in September. Sometimes depending on the weather they may leave late if it is warm or early if it begins to turn cold and head south. Barn swallows may come back to an old nest next spring, but are more likely to build a new one, unlike purple martins. Maybe you will get lucky and they will return so keep that hole open thru spring. Thanks

23.Dear Birdman
I have 2 hummingbirds that come to my feeder, is there a time I should stop feeding, or will they migrate on their own?

I am assuming you are somewhere in the midwest. You can't prevent migration, it is a natural instinct some say is based partially on the length of daylight.Generally, it would be good to leave at least one hummingbird feeder up until the first frost. On occasion you may have a sick hummingbird that may have difficulty finding food since the flowers have already bloomed and are no longer available for nectar. Hummingbirds need to fatten up before their long journey south. Please keep in mind that your nectar can freeze when the night temperatures dip, so don't leave the feeders out too long.
Good luck,
The Birdman
24. Hi
I have a brand new bird bath with fresh clean water and almost no bird seem to roost here. However they happily frequent the bird feeder which is a few feet away. HELP!

Be patient, it sometimes takes a week or so before birds adjust to your new birdbath.It is also important to place your birdbath in a location where birds can find shelter from predators.(cats, hawks etc.) Placing your birdbath within a short distance of a tree or shrubs (maybe five feet or so of a tree or shrubs) will give them a feeling of security. Birds like to fly back and forth between some type of shelter and the birdbath. If no trees are near, you can also create a brush pile so the birds can seek shelter there.
A bird in a birdbath is kind of like a "sitting duck" if a hunter is around it helps to have shelter nearby.
Be patient "If there's water they will come"
Happy Bird Watching
The Birdman

25. What do mocking birds eat. I have a lot of birds at my feeder but the mocking birds don't eat at the feeder.

Mockingbirds are fruit and insect eaters. Mockingbirds are known for vocally mimicking other birds, hence the name Mockingbird. Sometimes (young males) will sing at night. I hope this answers your question.
Happy Bird Watching
The Birdman

26. Hi,
Really would like some help with keeping my birdbath clean. It is a concrete one that seems to get a green slimy scum on the bottom of the dish in about a weeks time. I really have to scrub it out with a metal brush to clean it and was wondering if there is anything I can add to the water to keep this scum from forming. This bath sits in the sun about 1/2 of the day if that helps you any.
Thanks for any help you can give me.

Hello Ed, If you want to keep those birds happy,the birdbath can be washed with water and white vinegar. Vinegar will kill the algae and freshen the water in the birdbath. Be sure to rinse well and fill with clean water.The best way I have found to clean a birdbath and to fight algae is to mix one capful of bleach solution to one gallon of water.If that doesn't work well enough empty the birdbath , mix the bleach stronger in a gallon of water and scrub the bottom of the birdbath with it, use a good scrub brush, then rinse the birdbath well and add clean water.You can also try this great birdbath cleaner that is available on Backyard Birdwatcher.
Good luck
The Birdman

27. Dear Birdman,
How can I attract Goldfinches without getting a ton of house finches? The House finches always take over and I'm getting aggravated!

Samantha,one of the best ways that I have found is to shorten the perches if it is a tube type feeder.If the perches are no more than a half inch, it should prevent house finches from perching confortably while goldfinches won't mind because they are capable of clinging to the short perches. There is also a feeder called the upside down feeder or The Bottoms up Feeder which is a tube-type feeder with perches above the feeding ports. This allows goldfinches to feed upside down while clinging to the perch. House finches can't cling well upside down so they will not use this feeder,allowing you to watch goldfinches all the time.

28. Dear Birdman:
I bought two bluebird houses and placed them in the yard. Bluebirds did not take up residence, but chickadees did. Does one clean out the nest when they are done using it or do I leave it alone. Do chickadees go where it is warm when winter approaches here in Wisconsin or do they hang in there like the rest of us tough birds.
lol Thanks Dee

Bluebirds can be difficult to attract. Usually sparrows take up residency before you can get a bluebird. That is why you see so many sparrows. They are taking up a nesting site and preventing bluebirds from occupying the box. You have to clean out the nesting material of sparrows and other birds in order to get bluebirds. If you see sparrows making a nest you'll have to clean it out. It requires regular maintenance, but you will feel like it was worth it when you see your first bluebird and you will be helping to increase the bluebird population at the same time. The sparrows will find somewhere else to nest. As for your other questions, chickadees will be around when winter comes and the general practice is to clean out most birdhouses once a year, although birds will do their own renovating if they wish to use a house. Spring is a good time to clean houses before nesting begins in the midwest.
You can also find information on chickadees and most other birds at Backyard Bird Watcher on the first page. Go to the section that says "Identify your favorite bird here"
The Birdman
29. To Whom it may concern:
A "mama" and "dada" bluejay recently began building a nest under our awning, which is over our deck. And last Thursday - yep - there are now babies, five, I believe. We are completely fascinated by them. However, it seems like we should be doing something; such as leaving some food out?! I could not find any info on what type of food they eat. So if you could please respond quickly, as to what we should be "leaving out" and of course if there is anything else we could/should do.
I appreciate any information you have for me.
Thank you

The bluejay is known for screaming like a hawk when approaching a feeder in order to scatter the birds that are already there. Bluejays eat insects, fruit, nuts, and are attracted to seed feeders. Generally 4-5 eggs that are blue to green with brown marks are in the nest.The best approach for helping these birds is to just let nature take it's course. Let "mama" and dada" take care of their young. It sounds like you may not have a feeder in the yard. A good feeder with a generous helping of quality bird food including nuts, dried fruit and sunflower chips if possible. Kaytee brand is a good source for quality food. A squirrel proof feeder would be encouraged if you have squirrels, then sit back and enjoy the show.
The Birdman

30. Hi Birdman,
I have tried for the last 2 years to attract orioles and have not had any luck. I have my hummingbird feeders out and expect to see an oriole on the hummingbird feeders looking for the nectar. I have seen them but they do not stay. Why?
I live in the midwest.

Cathy, the orioles probably cannot get the nectar from your feeders because the hole on a hummingbird feeder is usually smaller. Try taking off the plastic flowers temporarily during their migration{if you have this type of feeder usually made by Perky Pet and others). This will allow the orioles to feed through the larger hole after the plastic flowers are removed. You don't have to remove all of them, just one or two. This will usually work on Perky Pet hummingbird feeders and some others.
The best way to attract orioles is with oranges. Slice an orange in half and put a nail in the siding on your house(if you have siding) Place the orange half on the nail. I have seen people who have attracted 20 or 30 orioles during migration. Mesh bags may also be used with orange halves placed inside. Around Mother's day is a great time, in the midwest, for this to work. Also keep in mind that the ratio of sugar to water is different for orioles than hummingbirds when using a sugar/water mix in a feeder. Have you tried an oriole feeder by Perky Pet?
Good Luck!
The Birdman

31. Dear Sir;
Greetings from Hudson, Wisconsin. My husband and I are just getting into the bird scene. We have established bird houses, feeders of every kind, bird baths and suet hangers. We are having one major problem. It seems that every blackbird and crow in Wisconsin is finding our yard and taking over everything. They are scaring away all the other birds. What are we doing wrong? Also, what can we do to attract cardinals. As a beginner I really love reading your articles. I look forward to your response.

Hello Dee,
Your problems with blackbirds and crows can be summed up in one word: Safflower.
Use safflower seed in your feeders. Don't mix it with other seed. Straight safflower seed is not a favorite of blackbirds and crows. Don't mix it with sunflower otherwise you will have the big birds back. Squirrels don't care for safflower either, so if you use safflower, they usually won't bother your feeders. Again don't mix the safflower with other seed such as sunflower or you will have the squirrels back again. Be patient, they may have to get use to it.
As for cardinals, your answer again is safflower seed. Cardinals love safflower seed especially when it is served on a platform type feeder. Cardinals are more of a ground feeding bird, so when you give them a flat surface (platform feeder) similar to the ground they will be there. Put the platform feeder at a height that will bring them up to a level where you can see them better,preferably about waist level or higher. This should make your bird watching more pleasurable and free of those pesty blackbirds.
Happy Bird Watching
The Birdman

32. Hello,
We have been getting conflicting advice on what seems like a great idea. I have read that dryer lint is a great item to put outside for birds to use in nest building. My husband has heard that it takes so long to dry that it is actually bad for birds to use. Which advice is right? Also, I have put out human hair before, is pet hair a good idea? We have about six bird houses, all being put to good use, are there other things we can do to make our yard bird "friendly"? We have baths, feeders, trees,shrubs, and open spaces. We are also putting in lots of flowers for the summer, and even hope to attract some bluebirds.
Thanks for your help!
Michelle and Steve

Michelle and Steve,
Dryer lint can be used for nesting material for birds. I would suggest cutting it or shredding it into small strips and pull it apart so that it is not packed too tightly. You can put it in a mesh bag, (an onion or orange bag works well) or a suet cage. I think as long as the lint is shredded a bit,the moisture problem should not be any worse than pine needles, grass, tissue paper and other material commonly used for nesting material. How about colored yarn? You could then identify the materials you provided. Think of it this way, you are saving the birds a lot of energy which they will need, to gather food for those young ones once that nest is built. It sounds like you are doing a great job with the yard providing what is necessary, food, water. and shelter.One tip, try to keep the birdhouses in a direction where the wind isn't going into the hole, this will make your birdhouses more desirable. We all like to keep the door closed on a cold and windy day. Plant for the birds and keep up the good work!

33. Help! My birdseed is sprouting under my feeder. How can I prevent this problem? I love feeding birds but dislike the weeds under the feeders.

Hi Jenny,
It is time to pull out the microwave and start cooking! Do you have any paper lunch bags handy? Fill one with your favorite birdseed before you have to fill the feeder, and cook it in the microwave for about 5 minutes and let it cool, then put the seed in your feeder. This should eliminate the problem. I have tried it and it works. If you would rather not microwave try sunflower chips, thistle or cracked corn. They should not sprout. Thistle will not sprout because it is sterilized before it comes into the country. Any seed without a shell will usually not sprout either.
Good luck!
The Birdman

34. Dear Birdman,
How can I attract a better variety of birds to my backyard? It seems that I always have the same birds. George H. (Indiana)

The best way to attract a wide variety of birds would be to provide different food for different birds. Like us,birds have different food preferences. It is like having a variety of restaurants to choose from. Certain birds will frequent certain feeders because of what they have to offer. Set up a number of feeding stations with a specific type of seed in it,say for example, a feeder with safflower seed, a feeder with thistle, and a feeder with black oil sunflower etc. Watch what birds frequent what feeder and then you can decide what birds you would prefer and feed them their favorite.

35. Hello Birdman,
from the land of Cows and Cheese (Wisconsin),
My birds seem to frequent only one of my three feeders. How come? I would like to bring them closer to my favorite birdwatching window. Why do they only feed from the farthest feeder? Chester F. (Wisconsin)

Without more information Chet I can only guess that the feeder farthest away is in a more secure location with more places to run for cover if the need exist. Birds prefer feeders that are safe from predators. A bird feeder within a few feet of a tree will give the birds a chance to take cover when necessary. This will allow the birds to fly between the tree and feeder more often and allow you to watch the birds more often.
Also birds sometimes prefer a particular feeder simply because it is easier to get to the food. Just like you, Chet, you go where it is easier to get your bread buttered. I usually go where the fast food line is the shortest, I don't like to wait to eat either.

36. Dear Birdman,
My husband says if I feed the birds that weeds will be a problem in the grass under the feeder, is he right?
Gail H.
Seattle, Washington

Your husband may be right if you feed the birds a cheap mix. Birds will sift through what they like and leave the rest to fall to the ground. this could pose a problem with weeds. Why not try sunflower chips. The seed has no shell and the birds will eat the whole chip leaving your ground with no mess and no sprouting. Seed needs a shell in order to sprout. If you just want to attract small birds like Goldfinches, try Niger [Thistle] seed,it will not sprout either and your husband will enjoy the birds along with you. (Also check related questions on this page.)
37. Hey Birdman!
Enjoy Your sight and have a Question for you. Every fall up here in the midwest I have noticed flocks of birds flying together. Why is it mainly in the fall?
John J.
Itasca Il.

I am glad you enjoy this sight and in regards to your question, the reason birds seem to fly together in the fall is because during migration it is safer to fly as a group for safety against predators. One can alert the other if there is a problem. Flying together also helps when looking for food, many eyes are better than only a pair of eyes and again relating this to ourselves, if you plan to go out at night or are in an unsafe place,it is always better to take someone along with you, right?

38. Hi Birdman,
Last spring I had a woodpecker that would peck on the house siding. The sound was a repeated tapping and caused some damage to the wood siding. I hope to avoid this problem this year, but what can I do to prevent this from happening again and why would they do this?
Sheri (Detroit,Michigan)

If it is happening in the spring, it could be that love is in the air. What I mean is, that tapping could be to attract a mate. Also check your wood siding where the damage occurred and see if there is any sign of insects in the wood. This woodpecker may be looking for a free lunch. Try putting strips of tin foil on the area where they seem to be pecking.Use a scissor to make it look like garland so that it shimmers. The reflection from the tinfoil when moving in the wind may be enough to discourage this activity. Otherwise you may have to learn to appreciate rap music.
Good luck!
The Birdman


Try this

made from a 1" X 6" X 6'
piece of wood.

39. Hi Birdman,
I'm so excited I found your site for answering questions. I recently purchased an oriole feeder & would like to know where would be the best place for me to hang the feeder? My yard does not have big trees but does have large ligustrums, crepe myrtles & pampas grass. I also have a question about the nectar. I have been successfully feeding hummingbirds for over five years & use a soution of 1 cup water to 1/4 cup sugar. I've read that the oriole nectar should be 1 cup to 1/6 cup of suger. Is this correct? Thanks for helping get started with the orioles! Oh, one more thing. I live in North Central Texas where the temperatures do get pretty hot. I do a good job of changing the hummingbird feeders every 2-3 days.
Thanks again.

Yes, the recipe for Oriole nectar is as you described, 1 cup of water to 1/6 cup of sugar.

The basic recipe is six parts water to one part sugar.
Allow the water to cool enough before hanging the feeder back in its position outside. Any left over sugar-water can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
When possible, it is best to locate the feeder in a shady area.
Place it in a sheltered southeast location in the yard or garden. Orioles also enjoy fresh oranges and grape or apple jelly. To deter annoying squirrels, hang the oriole feeder from tree branches as far from the trunk as possible and at least four feet above the ground.
For best results, hand wash the feeder with equal parts water and white vinegar--this will help protect birds from bacteria and disease.
Changing the nectar regularly 2 to 3 days in warm climates or once a week in most cooler areas should be sufficient.
Happy Bird Watching

40. Hello,
I have been feeding birds for years but I always seem to have one problem in the spring and that is the deer seem to be attracted to my garden as well as my bird feeders. How can I continue to enjoy two of my favorite hobbies of feeding birds and vegetable gardening without being annoyed by deer that destroy my feeders and ravage my garden?

We have found an item that we feel works better than any to keep deer away. It is called Shake Away and comes with a money back guarantee from the manufacturer. Shake Away is not a product that deer would try to taste but an ALL NATURAL granular powdered predator urine product. Shake-Away is a Coyote Urine Powder that will create a misleading image that coyotes are present in your lawn or garden and this will help direct deer away, as the odor of a coyote is a danger signal to deer. Shake Away is also available for deer, skunk, rabbits, squirrels, moles, cats and other critters and the powder works 10 times longer than liquid. Try it and enjoy your favorite hobbies again.
Good Luck

41. Birdman,
How can I make my yard more attractive to birds? I love watching birds and would really be interested in making our yard a bird lovers paradise.

Bonnie, nobody says it better than the wild bird feeding institute, the tips below should help from the WBFI.
Happy Bird Watching



Last weekend we had a thunderstorm that lasted 12 hours with constant thunder and horrible lightening.  The birds at our feeder fed like crazy during the day of the storm, the storm not coming until 6pm.


Since last Sunday the day after the storm all of the birds from our backyard and the feeder are gone.  I went and cleaned the feeder and replenished it with new feed, but still no birds.  Any thoughts as to why they have not come back a week after that storm.
Would love to know what to do to get them back as I love watching the cardinals, goldfinches and believe it or not we had an indigo blue.  Really miss them
Thank you.

Birds will sometimes change their feeding patterns after a storm. They will be back. Keep the food out and fresh. Make sure the food is not wet or moldy. Wet and moldy food will keep them away and would not be healthy for the birds.
Good Luck,
43. Hello,Birdman
Was wondering why the birds were not nesting in one of my backyard bird houses and went to take it down and discovered that the wasps had taken it over. We finally got rid of the wasps, so my question is do birds eat wasps?
Milwaukee Wisconsin
Yes birds have been known to eat wasps. Other critters as well will eat wasps also included and known to eat wasps are dragonflies, other wasps, beetles moths, skunks, bears, badgers, bats weasels, wolverines, rats, mice crabs, frogs, goldfish and spiders.
44. Hello,
I would like to buy a good bird feeder. Which is the best kind to get for someone new to bird feeding?
Madison, Wisconsin
Hello Jane,
Since this is a very general question and would take a bit of time to answer completely, I would say your best bet is to get a good squirrel proof bird feeder such as the Droll Yankee Flipper or the Brome Squirrelbuster Plus with cardinal ring. These 2 bird feeders are two of the best for attracting birds and not squirrels. We have sold many of these with most customers being extremely happy and also amused at watching the squirrels without the annoyance of squirrels eating all the food.
Happy Bird Watching



6 Steps to turn your yard into a Sanctuary for Birds
Birds need your help! Populations of many kinds of birds are declining. Habitat loss and degradation, disease, collisions with man-made structures and a host of other factors contribute to these declines. You can help by turning your yard into a sanctuary for birds.

Here are six steps you can take to make the future brighter for birds:

1. Put out the welcome mat!
Habitat loss is the biggest challenge facing birds. You can help by making your neighborhood more attractive to birds by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter from the elements and predators, and nesting sites. Providing feeders, nest boxes and water also benefits birds. To learn how, stop by your local wild bird shop or garden retailer.

2. Prepare a proper menu.
Providing the appropriate foods year round will attract more birds to your yard and help ensure that they have a safe and nutritious diet. Refill feeders regularly with food desired by birds in your area. To pick the best menu, stop by your local wild bird shop.

3. Keep feed and feeding areas clean.
To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month.

Plastic and metal feeders can go in the dishwasher, or rinse these and other styles with a 10% solution of bleach and warm water. Scrub birdbaths with a brush and replace water every three to five days to discourage mosquito reproduction.
Rake up and dispose of seed hulls under feeders. Moving feeders periodically helps prevent the buildup of waste on the ground. Keep seed and foods dry; discard food that smells musty, is wet or looks moldy. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather. It’s good hygiene to wash your hands after filling or cleaning feeders.

4. Birds and chemicals don’t mix.
Many pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are toxic to birds; avoid using these near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest. Always follow directions provided by chemical manufacturers. For additional information visit your garden retailer.

5. Keep cats away from birds.
Scientists estimate that cats probably kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the U.S. This is a big problem, but it’s easy to fix. Many people who enjoy feeding birds also love cats. The best solution is tokeep cats indoors. They will lead longer, healthier lives, and your yard will be safer for birds. Install feeders in areas not readily accessible to cats or install fences or other barriers to help keep stray cats from feeder areas. Collar bells, de-clawing and keeping cats well fed will not solve the problem.

6. Reduce window collisions.
Collisions with glass windows kill millions of wild birds every year. Depending on their size and location, some windows reflect the sky or vegetation, and birds are fooled into thinking they can fly through them. To prevent birds from hitting your window,identify windows that cause collisions (typically larger, reflective windows, those near the ground, or those that “look through” the house). Attaching decorative decals or other decorations to the outside surface of the glass can reduce reflections. Feeder birds fleeing predators are vulnerable to window collisions. If this is happening at your house, consider moving feeders within three feet of the windows so that birds cannot accelerate to injury level speeds while flying away. Problem windows can be covered with a screen so that birds bounce off, rather than hit the glass. Also try the window warning decals.

The information contained here is designed to assist birding enthusiasts in their efforts to attract a variety of birds to their property, as well as to serve as a guide to providing a healthy environment.

WBFI and its member companies hope you find this information helpful in creating your own wild bird sanctuary, and wish you many years of happy viewing!

You can help change the world and make it a better place for birds and people. The most important step you can take is to get started!

If you have a question about backyard bird watching, email us at


National Wildlife Federation Blog
National Wildlife Federation

A little forgetfulness can sometimes be a good thing.

Squirrels are responsible for planting millions of trees each year.
Squirrels gather nuts and bury them each year
but forget exactly where they are all at,
thus leaving millions of nuts which
eventually may grow into beautiful trees.
Good job fellas!

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