Backyard bird feeding is a popular hobby with more than 57 million backyard birders in North America. Recent scientific studies have discovered that wild birds are not dependent upon backyard bird feeders, but did find that the birds in areas where bird feeders were consistently available had higher survival rates and healthier young. This is good news for backyard birders and our feathered friends.
This time of year, birds are busy finding a mate, building a nest and raising young. All of this activity takes an incredible amount of energy. If you already feed the birds or are interested in getting started, the following are some of the high energy foods you can provide to attract the birds in your area.
This is the solution used in hummingbird and oriole feeders. The recommended recipe is four parts water to one part white table sugar mixed thoroughly. No red food coloring is needed. In our warm climate it is best to change the nectar at least twice weekly.
Hummingbird activity will peak in July and August and end by late fall.
Fruits and jelly: This may come as a surprise for some of you but many birds other than hummingbirds have “sweet beaks.” Fresh orange halves and grape jelly are favorites of the two species of orioles, (Bullock’s and Scott’s), found throughout New Mexico. House finches and others will also gobble up the sweet offerings.
No-Melt suet products: Most of us think of feeding suet during the colder winter months, but birds also crave high fat suet during the spring/summer nesting season. No-melt suet lives up to its name. It will not melt in our warm temperatures. These suet products come in many shapes and sizes from square blocks, cylinders, spreadable suet and little nuggets and can be displayed in a variety of ways. Some of the fun birds attracted to suet that are not usually seen at seed feeders are woodpeckers and bushtits.
Nyjer thistle: This tiny black seed is packed with the fat and protein that lesser goldfinches are looking for. These little yellow birds are found throughout much of New Mexico and can be attracted with a thistle feeder. This is a specialized feeder designed to dispense only thistle seed. Thistle seed is vulnerable to drying out and losing its protein value in our desert climate so be sure to only feed fresh thistle to best attract the goldfinches.
Mary Schmauss is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque. A lifelong birder and author of “For the Birds: A Month-by Month Guide to Attracting Birds to your Backyard.”