Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society

FEEDING BIRDS

Kinds of Seed Feeder Placement Feeder Cleanliness Water Feeding Hummingbirds Planting for Birds
Mourning DoveCalifornia QualWhite-crowned Sparrow 1st WinterWhite-crowned SparrowRed-winged Blackbird
Photos (left to right) Mourning Dove, California Quail, White-Crowned Sparrows  (1st winter, then adult), Red-winged Blackbird,   Photographers:  Larry Unthum and Jane Abel
When you purchase seed from Columbia Grain & Feed,
Pasco, Washington
they will make a donation to our Chapter's Education Committee.
Ask the clerk when you buy!

No cost to you -
             Students benefit.

What birds will you attract?

 In this area, most seed-eating birds are winter visitors.  Typical winter birds at feeders include:

  • Mourning Dove*
  • House Finch*
  • American Goldfinch*
  • California Quail*
  • Ring-necked Pheasant*
  • House Sparrow*
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Song Sparrow

In Summer, those marked * stay in our area and, if you feed sunflower seeds, they may be joined by

  • Black-headed Grosbeak 

More unusual birds include

  • Fox Sparrow
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Brewer's Blackbird

 Red-winged Blackbirds and House Sparrows can be big eaters at your feeder and may gobble up the seeds – to minimize this, use less (or no) corn in your mixture.

What kinds of seed?

Sunflower and white millet are the basic seeds typically used. 

Pre-mixed seed varieties include these as well as other specialty seeds or filler. 

Filler seeds (red millet, corn, sorghum, etc) reduce the cost of the mixture but don’t improve the number or kinds of birds that come to feed. 

Specialty seeds can include peanuts, other nuts, and thistle/niger. 

Niger, Nyger, and Thistle are all the same seed.  It is to birds what chocolate is to some of us - they all love it.  

Feeding Niger is the best way to attract finches to your yard.  Since it is expensive, special feeders have very small holes; some feeders have the feeding ports below the perches.  This attracts goldfinches and keeps the more greedy House Finches away.  (They get to eat what the goldfinches drop.)  Keep a close eye on those feeders because sometimes Pine Siskin or Common Redpolls are seen.

Where to place bird feeders?

Using a variety of feeders should give you the best results. 

Placement of feeders is important.  Provide a combination of space around the feeder so that:Sharp-shinned Hawk

  • birds can see predators (like cats or Sharp-shinned Hawks, pictured) 
  • birds have cover nearby (a place to fly to safety).  Cover can be as simple as some nearby shrubs or a brush pile.  
Many of the winter birds are ground feeders so even a bit of scattered seed can bring birds to your yard.

Keep feeders clean! 

Cleaning feeders is a big part of being a responsible bird feeder. 

Never let wet seed remain in a feeder.  It will mold and may become toxic to the birds you are trying to benefit.  Toss out the dregs every once in a while. 

It is wise to rinse the feeders with a mild bleach solution when they look grimy.  Let them fully dry before refilling with fresh seed. 

Birds need waterWinter Bird Bath

Providing water year round can be just as important as your choice of seeds or feeders.  Water may bring in birds that typically do not eat bird seed. 

A shallow dish (clean regularly to prevent mosquitoes) can work as well as more expensive bird baths.  Adding a source of dripping water seems to attract more birds. 

Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds migrate through the Tri-Cities from early April through early June, then again late July through mid-September. 

Three species migrate (pictured left to right):   Black-chinned HummingbirdRufous HummingbirdCalliope Hummingbird

  • Black-chinned Humminbirds
  • Rufous Hummingbirds
  • Calliope Hummingbirds.  
In addition, a few Black-chinned Hummingbirds stay here to nest June to July.

Hummingbird photographs courtesty of Jane Abel; to view these and other photos full-size, register and visit LCBirds2 Photo Gallery.

Making hummingbird nectar: 

Boil water.  Mix c of white sugar (NOT honey or artificial sweeteners!!) per cup of water.  Adding food coloring is NOT necessary – if there is no red on your feeder, add some red string or ribbon. 

Hummingbirds usually feed in the early morning or evening.  If the nectar is going down and there is no obvious puddle on the ground, you probably have hummers even if you haven’t seen them yet.

Cleanliness is very important when feeding hummingbirds. 

The nectar MUST be changed every 3 to 4 days, especially when it is warm.  If the nectar becomes cloudy or black, this can be toxic to the birds.  Do not use soap.  If the feeders have not spoiled, you can rinse them out with hot water.  If there is a filmy residue, use a mild beach solution and rinse well.  If the feeder is still hard to clean and too narrow to use a brush, try adding a small amount of uncooked rice and shake hard.  No kidding!!

Nectar sources for hummingbirds are provided by vines and perennials.

Honeysuckle Vine
Trumpet Vine
Hummingbird Mint or Sunset Hyssop  ( Agastache rupestris, A. cana, A. aurantica)
Red Salvia    (Salvia greggii)
Penstemon     (red, pink, and purple flowering types)
Texas Red Yucca
Crocosmia
Red Hot Poker
Beebalm
Cardinal Lobelia

Planting to Attract Birds

A variety of plants chosen for home landscaping can be beneficial to birds in several ways:

  • as a food source
  • cover from predators
  • nesting sites
Black-eyed Susans and Purple Coneflower have seeds favored by American Goldfinch.

Although not recommended as new plantings, existing stands of Russian Olive and Mulberry provide fruit to a wide range of birds.

Below are lists of recommended species for new  tree and shrub plantings:

Trees with seeds or fruit: Shrubs with fruit:
Austrian Pine
Scotch Pine
Rocky Mountain Juniper
Birch
Hawthorn
Crabapple
Mountain Ash
Serviceberry
Chokecherry
Nanking Cherry
Bird Cherry
Black Chokeberry
Red Chokeberry
Cotoneaster
Flowering Dogwood

Cornelian Cherry Dogwood
Redtwig Dogwood
Oregon Grape
Pyracantha
American Cranberrybush (Viburnum)
Golden Currant
Wild Rose
Blue Elderberry

Links to General Bird Feeding information on other websites (not specific to our area)

Feeding Backyard Birds - National Audubon
Feeding Birds - Cornell University website
Project Feeder Watch