Healthy snack food for birds

If you want to attract wild birds to your back yard, there are three basics: shelter, water, and food.

But if you want to become the most popular house on the block, offering a wide variety of foods is especially effective. A great way to invite new and different birds to the back yard is to broaden the menu.

There are dozens of blends of bird seed available and experimenting with these can bring new and different birds to your feeders. Try blends with whole nuts or dried fruits, and see who comes to visit. Make sure your feeders are suited to the size of the seeds so the feed is easily accessible through the holes.  Some species won’t come to hanging feeders, but you can accommodate them with a platform feeder or by putting seed directly on the ground. Rake or sweep regularly, so that the seed doesn’t attract unwanted four-legged visitors.

Avoid offering human snacks such as salty chips, sugary sweets, and bread. These offer little nutrition and frequently include ingredients that are unhealthy for wild creatures.

Instead, offer fruit, including watermelon, oranges, diced apples, and berries, such as dried cranberries and cherries, along with raisins and currants. Putting out a small amount of grape jelly may attract brightly colored orioles in your area but look for kinds that are made without high-fructose corn syrup and with a low (or no) sugar content. Be sure that the container of jelly won’t allow the orioles to get sticky, because sticky feathers can be deadly for birds. Another possibility is to offer sugar water in an oriole feeder. Use the same recipe as you would for hummingbirds: 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and no food coloring.

Mealworms are another fun way to attract some different birds such as bluebirds. These are sold live at specialty stores, but for convenience (and for those who are squeamish), there are now dried mealworms available at most places that sell wild bird seed.

Most people think of suet as a winter food, to help birds find quick fat and calories in the hard, snowy months. But you can offer it year-round. No-melt suet is a good alternative in the summer. These formulations won’t melt in the heat, and they provide extra nutrition to nesting birds and hatchlings.

Pressed seed cakes are another convenient option. They come in several shapes and sizes, including bells, rectangles, and circles. There are small sizes that fit into a suet cage and round “doughnut” shapes that can hang on a simple post.

Early summer is a wonderful time for watching wild birds in the yard. To ensure that you’re providing safe habitat for them, keep the feeders clean and the birdbath full of fresh water, and keep your cats indoors.