Diversifying the urban birdfeeder
August 8, 2008 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I want to diversify the population hanging out at my urban birdfeeder. House sparrows, pigeons and starlings are beginning to irritate me.

I've had up suet feeders, seed feeders, black oil sunflower seeds. An oriole/finch feeder. I keep getting the same three birds, with the exception of one very exciting cardinal that shows up occasionally.

I live on a tree-lined street in Detroit in an old neighborhood. Is there any way of attracting birds that aren't ordinarily present in urban neighborhoods?

I do plan on refraining from nesting boxes, so I'm mostly looking for suggestions on feed, feeders, plants that I could put in our 3'X6' plot in front our house.

As an aside, we do get the occasional pheasant and peacock (longish story), so if I could get a little posse of those guys hanging out...
posted by palindromic to Pets & Animals (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hummingbird feeder? Maybe try a thistle sock and add a bird bath or table with seed for ground/table feeders. Make sure your feeders have small enough perches so that the starlings and pigeons can't get on them. Stick with the sunflower seeds, but don't put out mixes or corn (which attract sparrows and pigeons/doves).
posted by mattbucher at 10:06 AM on August 8, 2008

I find that sunflower chips are real "crowd pleasers," attracting a wide variety of birds who just LOVE the stuff. The bonus for sunflower chips is that they are hulled, so there is less mess to clean up.

My mom has a "squirrel-proof" feeder with weighted perches - this will keep pigeons away as well (but not house sparrows as they are smaller). It's a tube feeder that lets smaller birds like chickadees, house finches, goldfinches, etc. can perch and eat, but if a squirrel (or a pigeon) alights on the perches, they drop down and the feeder holes disappear. You might want to look into something like that.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:55 AM on August 8, 2008

Well, I think what you attract is somewhat determined by what is generally in your geographic area, but there are some things you could try:

Are you feeding just sunflower seeds, or one of those wild bird mixes with sunflower seeds? I find it's best to use just one kind of seed, as opposed to the mixes. The mixes tend to attract more of the annoying birds, like sparrows, pigeons and starlings. Sunflower seeds (hulled or not) attract the widest variety of birds, but also squirrels.

Try safflower seeds. They are very appealing to cardinals and other birds, but not quite as appealing to the squirrels. In addition to cardinals, my safflower seed feeder attracts finches, chickadees, nuthatches and grosbeaks.

Try a thistle (nyger/niger seed) feeder. You said you have an oriole/finch feeder, but didn't specify what's in it. I have a nyger seed feeder that attracts goldfinches and house finches.

You could also try a hummingbird feeder (they're my favorite to watch, personally), but you may be a little late in the season to attract them this year. It's best to start feeding them while they're migrating in the early Spring.

You don't mention where your feeders are located, but this can be just as important as what you put in your feeders. Are they near trees, bushes, and other such things that birds can use as cover? I think part of the reason I have so many birds is that we have a heavily wooded backyard where the birds can take shelter. This is especially important to hummingbirds. See also Creating a Backyard Habitat and Plants for a Backyard Habitat from the Backyard Bird Company.

Good luck and happy bird watching :)
posted by geeky at 11:17 AM on August 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

Well, I think what you attract is somewhat determined by what is generally in your geographic area, but there are some things you could try

Geeky has all good advice. Just to piggyback on the quote above, it also may be too late/early in the season to attract birds other than the boring ones you have now, since most of the interesting birds migrate.

Follow the advice above and diversify your feeders. But be patient -- it'll probably be a month or two before the cool birds are back in town. Have the food ready for them and they'll show up.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:26 PM on August 8, 2008

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