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In Bird Friendly Cities, key threats to birds are effectively mitigated, and nature is restored so native bird populations can thrive.

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  • Writer's pictureThom Luloff

Bird Feeding: Food Selection

Bird feeding is a practice that may have some benefit to certain species, and especially during extreme weather fluctuations. When properly cared for and maintained, bird feeders can be a great way to observe and learn about the many different types of birds found in our backyard.

But what is the best type of bird feeder and what is the best type of food for birds?

It can be confusing with many different options available, but the general rule is that the best type of food mimics what is closest to being found in the natural environment.

A diverse mix of seeds will attract the greatest variety of birds

When using blends, choose mixtures containing sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn—the three most popular types of birdseed. Birds that are sunflower specialists will readily eat the sunflower seed and toss the millet and corn to the ground, to be eaten by ground-feeding birds such as sparrows and juncos.

Do not sprinkle additional seed on the ground - more than enough will fall during feeder usage.

We do not recommend providing any food items that would not normally be found in their diet

You may see suggestions online to provide foods such as potatoes, lettuce, bacon fat, and other kitchen waste items; please do not. Firstly, birds will likely not recognize it as food, and secondly with it being uneaten by birds, it will almost certainly be an attractant for rodents - especially rats.

Provide suet only after the first hard frost with consistent daily temperatures below zero degrees Celsius.

Suet (beef fat ONLY) attracts insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. Place the suet in special feeders at least five feet from the ground to keep it out of the reach of dogs, coyotes, and foxes. Do not put out suet during hot weather as it can turn rancid; also, dripping fat can damage natural waterproofing on bird feathers. Additionally, by waiting until hibernating mammals are out of the picture, you are reducing the risk of providing an attractant to your backyard.

We do NOT recommend providing peanuts in your feeders.

Although peanuts are a healthy source of fat and protein, they are not naturally found in the diets of birds in Peterborough. Even more importantly, birds and squirrels will cache peanuts in their territories which can lead to adverse reactions when the seeds or husks are inadvertently handled by children with anaphylaxis allergies.

Feeding birds is not for us. It's for them. If you are going to feed the birds, please do so responsibly

If bird feeders or watering stations are offered it is crucial that the food be changed regularly (even if not consumed) and especially in humid or wet weather, as food will being to rot, leading to disease. Bird feeders themselves must be cleaned and disinfected at least once a week to prevent the spread of disease like conjunctivitis, trichomoniasis, aspergillosis, or avian pox.


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