Gardening and birding have been two passions of mine since I was in my early twenties. There’s just something beautiful about a backyard alive with color and movement. I love it so much, even the puzzle of trying to deter the invasive European Starlings, without diminishing the number and variety of native birds.
I have a hopper tray feeder and all of the birds love it. Pictured below is a little Titmouse who was enjoying the suet during the winter.
Lately though, the Starlings have descended and they bully the other birds away, so I’ve had to get creative. I shortened the chains so it was not long enough to easily accommodate the larger birds and moved the suet so that it is far under the eave. Thankfully the Mockingbird can still get to it, but she’s a bit more graceful than the Starlings. I have to say, it’s quite funny watching the Starlings attempt to perch on this feeder!
I’m not one to exclude, so I did break up some suet and scatter it in another feeder and on the ground as well so the Starlings can feast in a more polite manner.
If you’re having trouble with Starlings taking over, you can always get safflower seeds instead of using the black oil sunflower and plant blends. Unfortunately this will diminish the variety of birds you get, but Cardinals and Titmice love them and you can always feet thistle seed for finches. For me, I prefer the challenge of accommodating all of the birds I possibly can. I find it quite interesting to watch birds figure out new situations! They are quite intelligent.
How are things in your backyard? Do you love birding and gardening as well?
If you’re new to attracting birds, my advice is this:
1. Have a birdbath in your yard. Add no more than two inches of water and keep the water clean. All birds need water and just doing this will attract birds! Add rocks if you’d also like to provide water for the bees and butterflies.
2. Feed suet year around and be sure to get no-melt. If you want to deter Starlings, try the Hot Pepper variety.
3. Use black oil sunflower seed mixed with nuts and fruit for the largest variety of birds. In my yard so far this year I’ve had Yellow Finches, House Finches, Northern Flickers, Gila Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Titmice, Nuthatches, Starlings, Cowbirds, Mourning Doves, Song Sparrows, Wrens, House Sparrows, and Chickadees. Oh, and of course the deer!
4. Have a few feeders at various heights and in various styles. Try a hopper, a tube, and a tray, for example. You can even just toss seeds on the ground, but if you’re using seeds in shells, be ready to sprout some sunflowers.
5. Feed mealworms (live or dried) to attract non-seed eating birds like Robins and Mockingbirds.
What to avoid:
Above all else, avoid feeding the cheap seed that’s made with “filler” seeds. You’ll recognize these easily. They are the round, copper colors seeds. None of the birds eat them and it just goes to waste.