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Spring Bird Feeding Tips

Feed Spring Birds in Your Backyard


Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Offer good food and spring birds will return to your feeders.


Spring is a prime birding season as birds arrive in their bright breeding plumage, and while winter birds are always welcome, the return of colorful spring birds signals warmer temperatures, fresh growth and longer days perfect for birding. Backyard birders who feed birds in spring can enjoy these birds right at home and encourage them to stay nearby throughout the season.

Backyard Birds in Spring

While woodpeckers, chickadees, starlings and other common backyard birds stay nearby all year round, some of the most highly anticipated spring birds are migratory and backyard birders eagerly anticipate their return as the season begins to change. As winter fades, watch for these types of birds to return to bird feeders:

While not all of these spring backyard birds will appear at every feeder, knowing which birds to expect can help backyard birders offer the best foods to attract them.

Why Feed Spring Birds?

While flowers are starting to bloom and fruits are starting to grow in spring, it can still be a slim season for early migrants. After a long winter, many prime food sources will be depleted, and backyard feeders provide easy foods for birds to take advantage of at a time when they need to replenish after an arduous migration. Spring is a busy season for birds as they claim territory, seek out mates, build nests and begin to raise their young, and offering foods for spring birds can not only invite them to your backyard, but can also help them survive late season storms and other hazards.

Best Spring Bird Foods

In any season, providing a variety of different foods for backyard birds is the key to attracting a wide range of species to feeders. Different foods will also provide more well-rounded nutrition to support brooding birds and parent birds feeding young chicks. The most popular foods to offer spring birds include:

  • Birdseed: All types of seed are welcome to spring birds, but black oil sunflower seed and hulled sunflower seed are the most universally nutritious and attractive choices in any season. As feeder species change during spring migration, the exact seeds preferred may vary, with less Nyjer necessary as winter finches retreat to the north and more millet consumed as doves and buntings return.

  • Mealworms: Live mealworms can be offered in feeders such as the Eco Fly-Thru Mealworm Feeder or in similar dishes, and they are an ideal option for warblers, thrushes and flycatchers, as well as many early nesting birds that will appreciate the protein source to feed nestlings. Dried mealworms can also be mixed in to birdseed or offered in dishes for all types of birds.

  • Fruit: Bright-colored birds such as orioles and tanagers always enjoy the bright-colored treat of fresh fruit, especially when fruit trees have not yet produced a crop in early spring. Orange halves, apple chunks, raisins and other fruits offered in platform or specialty feeders will be appreciated by many spring birds.

  • Nectar: Nectar is ideal for spring hummingbirds, especially if there are no nearby spring-blooming flowers that provide a natural nectar source. Hummingbirds have excellent geographic memories and will return each year to reliable food sources, so it is vital to put out hummingbird feeders early in spring for returning migrants.

  • Suet: Early spring is still cool enough to offer any suet variety, and this high-fat food provides abundant calories and rich nutrition for many birds. As the season warms, however, it may be necessary to switch to no-melt suet varieties or else discontinue feeding suet so it does not go rancid and become less attractive to backyard birds.

  • Calcium: Calcium is just as important for wild birds as it is for humans, and is especially critical during the nesting season for birds to lay strong eggs. Young birds also require calcium to develop strong, healthy bones. Some premium birdseed or suet blends will include a source of calcium such as bits of mollusk shells, and adding pieces of chicken eggshells to a backyard buffet is another way to provide birds with calcium.

The greater the variety of foods you offer for spring birds, the greater variety of species that will stop to sample the buffet. As the birds discover a rich and reliable food source, they are more likely to remain nearby throughout the spring and summer, providing months of enjoyable backyard birding.

More Tips for Feeding Spring Birds

Have you added a wide range of foods to your feeders but aren't yet seeing spring birds enjoying a meal? These tips can help:

  • Spring clean your bird feeders and check that they're repaired if necessary.
  • Avoid insecticides as much as possible so birds can enjoy insects in their diet.
  • Add extra feeders around the yard to accommodate a greater number of birds.
  • Plant early-blooming flowers to attract hummingbirds with a good nectar source.
  • Provide fresh water to attract birds that may not be interested in feeders.
  • Offer nesting material to tempt spring birds to raise their families nearby.
  • Use colors and sounds that will attract birds even before natural foods are abundant.

Not seeing spring birds yet at your bird feeders? Learn where to find spring birds and enjoy their return to popular birding hotspots while you wait for them to discover your backyard buffet!

Photo – Rose-Breasted Grosbeak © thefixer

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