You’d get pretty bored if you had the exact same food, in the same place, every single night. Birds are that way too – they like variety! Also, different kinds of birds like different seeds. Favorites vary by region and species. Merely putting out one kind of seed, in one feeder, drastically limits the kinds of birds that choose to visit your yard.
Birds want a variety of feeder types to choose from. A bird might have a favorite but, just like us, occasionally he wants to try something different. Goldfinches for instance (which are coming to Denton County right now). Normally they like the small-holed Nyjer feeders. But often in my yard, for variety, they’ll fly over to a regular tube feeder that I have up, and chow down on sunflower seeds.
Another example is Cardinals. The books say they prefer platform or hopper feeders, which is true. But in my yard they frequently perch on a suet basket, and peck at the suet (if they’re hungry, and food’s around, they’ll quickly adapt). Especially if the platform feeder is already full.
So it’s wise to have a variety of feeders for when birds want to try something new. Basically there are three types of birdfeeders; the tube, the platform and the hopper. Variations and specialty feeders abound, of course. There are squirrel-proof feeders, nectar feeders for Hummingbirds, Nyjer feeders for Goldfinches, suet baskets, nut feeders – and on and on.
The tube feeder is (duh!) a vertical tube, usually of clear Plexiglas, with several holes and accompanying perches on the sides, so birds can get at the seeds in the tube.
Hopper feeders look like little houses. The “house” (usually with clear sides) is full of seeds which slowly cascade into the wide “floor” where birds perch and eat.
Platform feeders are sometimes called tray feeders. They’re just a horizontal tray, usually of wire screen, rimmed by wood. Food is simply poured onto the tray. Birds actually sit IN the food while eating.
Having one of these feeders is clearly better than having none; and it will definitely attract some birds. Having all three types, however, will dramatically increase the birds in your yard (I have around ten feeders – the exact number varies by the season.)
What you put in your feeders lets you boost the variety too; thereby attracting even more birds.
I won’t go into detail about types of seeds. Suffice it to say that there are several. Your birds’ favorite may be “X”, but they may want “Y” some day – just for the excitement of something new.
I’m not saying to take down their favorite feeder filled with their favorite seed, but to put up an additional feeder filled with something new, and see what happens.
Whatever seed or seed blend you put out, it absolutely positively must be fresh. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it because it’s so crucial. As little time as possible should elapse between the time it’s harvested and the time you pour it in your feeder.
That means little or no time sitting in a warehouse, and as little time as possible sitting on the store shelf. Seed loses nutritional content every moment after it’s harvested, and before it’s eaten. So (especially in winter) birds select only the freshest seeds, and drop the others to the ground for less discerning animals to eat.
It also means that the seeds should be the kind that birds here in North Texas readily eat. Not some questionable filler seeds that just make the bag weigh more. Certainly not seeds that only “undesirable” birds, or birds from another part of the country, will eat (like milo, canary seed or oats).
Variety is the spice of a bird’s life in addition to our lives. Variety unquestionably attracts more birds too.