Everybody loves a dinner party—especially birds! And what is bird feeding other than just a different kind of dinner party? You offer your home and a delectable meal to friends in order to enjoy their company and create a rewarding and memorable experience for all.
Plus, birds are much better guests. No awkward talks about politics. No worrying about anyone getting too drunk or overstaying their welcome. Forget stressing over whether you should have invited your creepy neighbor after all. Just a relaxing way to reconnect with nature and provide birds with necessary nutrition that, in turn, helps the environment thrive and survive.
But how do you get started with bird feeding? It’s easy—just think of it like you’re hosting a dinner party for birds!
Know Your Guests
One of the most important parts of any dinner party is the guest list (that neighbor really is creepy—remember what happened the last time you invited him?).
And with about 10,000 species of birds, it seems like your contact list is impossible to sift through. But just like how your uncle who lives in New Zealand isn’t going to be able to make it, you’re not going to be able to invite the Kiwi (the bird, not your uncle) to your backyard either.
So do a little bit of research (no need to break out the ol’ Encyclopedia Britannica; just check out our Bird ID page) on the birds in your area and take note of the species you would like to attract—from tall, dark, and handsome to something a bit more bohemian. Also, make sure to pay attention to migration dates so you aren’t trying to attract species that are wintering in Acapulco. Once your guest list is more or less set, you can begin to craft the perfect menu for your feathered foodies.
Plan Your Menu
It’s almost inevitable: No matter what you plan on offering for your dinner party, someone will have a dietary restriction or preference that will go against your plan. To an extent, that can be true of birds as well. So it’s good to have options.
If you’re just starting out and want an easy way to attract a variety of birds, black oil sunflower seeds are the most preferred. You can also try using a seed mix with a high percentage of sunflower seed. Sunflower seed is sort of like the chicken of the bird feeding world—you’re not going to blow anyone away with this option, but it’s tasty, nutritious, and most eat it. Plus, it goes with everything! Put it in your tube feeder, platform, or hopper and satisfy the whole flock.
While sunflower seeds will attract the most diverse party of backyard birds, bullies might deter more desirable birds from sticking around—especially if you’ve got a favorite or two you are looking to attract (you don’t want to invite Jason’s ex if Jason is the prized guest on the invite list). So you might want to mix it up or add another dish (bird feeder) to the menu. After all, a proper dinner party has options. For example, if Jason is a finch, you could entice him with Nyjer® (thistle) seed or a finch mix. Or if your friend Anna is a hummingbird, you could lure her in with some sweet, sweet nectar (hummers are addicted to the sauce). Whatever your goal, make sure to plan your menu accordingly for best results.
See also: 10 Best Foods for Bird Feeding
Don’t forget, no dinner party is complete without beverages. Since birds are mostly a sober species (except for the drunkard Kererū Pigeon falling out of trees), offering a birdbath full of fresh, clean water is the perfect way for your friends to cool off and get a refreshing drink. This can be anything from a saucer with water in it to an elaborate backyard sculpture, but providing a water source in addition to food is the best way to leave your guests satisfied and impressed.
Dinner parties are a great excuse to clean up the house and add some decorations to impress your guests—and bird feeding is the perfect excuse to clean up your backyard and add plants, feeders, birdbaths, and nest boxes to create a mini-paradise right outside your window! Birds feel safe with natural shelter, so add a few trees, shrubs, and flowers to your backyard to enhance its seamless, natural feel for the birds. Make sure to add native plants, as invasive species can mess with the ecosystem and create a “food desert” for bugs and birds.
People aren’t the only ones who like a splash of color in their lives: birds have an extremely developed sensitivity to color and are attracted to bright colors not commonly found in nature. Plant some colorful and flowering plant species to make your backyard the talk, and squawk, of the town. Even birds on the fly will be able to spot your party!
In addition to sprucing up the yard with new plants, accessorize with a birdbath and/or some nest boxes (aka birdhouses). While I don’t suggest inviting your actual dinner party guests to move in (unless you and Jason really hit it off), providing a safe space for birds to rest and raise their young can help boost survival rates and contribute to the success of the species!
Ugh. Everyone’s least favorite part of a party. A necessary side effect to the fun. Yin and Yang. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
But making sure you keep your bird feeders (and birdbath) clean is vital to the safety and well-being of your new friends. Jason won’t return to pick at the moldy leftovers from your last dinner party, and neither will the birds. Diseases such as salmonellosis, avian pox, and mycoplasmosis can all be transmitted from the multiple birds visiting your feeders. So clean your feeders at least once a month to prevent the buildup of bacteria—once a week for hummingbird feeders. Make sure to also clear the area around the feeders of any leftover seeds and debris.
Finally, if you include a birdbath in your backyard dinner party, make sure to replace the water daily and keep them clean too! Fresh, clean water is so important for birds, and contaminated water is known to cause the spread of some diseases.
See also: What to Do If You Find a Sick Bird
That’s it—easy, right? Over 50 million adults in the U.S. alone can’t be wrong. Bird feeding is a great way to reduce stress, reconnect with nature, and help the environment. Plus, all your new friends will be sure to dress up for the occasion…