Spring Cleaning & Bird Feeding: 8 Ways to Get Ready for Migrating Birds
Spring has sprung! After months of cold, white weather, the world is full of flowers blooming with life and vibrancy. These tips will help you get ready for spring bird feeding and the return of our favorite migrating birds.
1. Take your spring cleaning outdoors
After an entire winter of feeding the birds, your feeders could probably use a good cleaning. After clearing your bird feeder of accumulated seed and debris, soak it in a 50/50 vinegar & water solution and scrub the entire feeder with a bird feeder cleaning brush to remove residues. Be sure the bird feeder dries completely before refilling so as not to get the seed wet. Apply fresh mulch around your bird feeding stations and rake up used seed hulls, making sure the ground is free of debris. If you have a bird bath, it could also use a little scrubbing before returning birds start bathing and drinking from it.
2. Set up a bird bath
Keep water readily available so birds can stay hydrated and keep their feathers in peak flying shape. Fresh, clean water is a must-have for bird health, as some bird diseases can spread through contaminated water. It’s a good idea to replace the water every day or so and clean your bird bath 2-3 times per week, especially if it’s extremely popular with your local flock.
3. Help mama birds prepare for nesting season
Offer crushed-up eggshells in a dish to give birds that necessary calcium to make strong eggs and promote proper bone growth in nestlings. The more nutrition birds get, the more successful the nesting season will be!
4. Attract more birds with multiple feeders
Spring is a time of abundance all around, including the variety of backyard birds, so don’t limit yourself to just one feeder or food! Give sweet treats to orioles, tanagers, and more by offering fruit or jelly in a fruit feeder, suet cage, or dish feeder. Nyjer® (thistle) seed feeders in tube or finch sock styles encourage a flood of finches to visit your backyard. Mealworms—a bluebird favorite—placed in a small dish feeder will bring huge excitement to your backyard. Adding additional bird feeders increases available feeding space in your yard and attracts a wider variety of birds. If you currently use a tube feeder, try adding a platform feeder to incorporate larger birds or a window feeder to bring the birds right up close.
5. Welcome hungry hummers heading north
Do you have a nectar feeder for hummingbirds? If not, you’re likely missing out on these amazing birds! A hummingbird feeder full of energy-rich nectar provides endless hours of hummingbird watching and a helpful food source for hungry hummers. Hummingbirds actually lick the nectar—about 13 licks per second— instead of drinking from flowers and nectar feeders directly. Their tongues extend much longer than their beaks, so they’re actually able to lick nectar beyond the reach of their beaks. Hummingbirds can eat anywhere from 1/2 to 8 times their body weight in a single day!
6. Help birds nest with the best
Offering nesting materials in spring is a great way to help birds raise a healthy new generation. Place nesting materials out in small piles near desirable nesting sites, in a clean suet cage or mesh bag, or anywhere it’s easily accessible and won’t blow away or get wet. Some quality nesting materials you can offer include twigs and sticks, fallen leaves, grass clippings or dead grass (as long as it hasn’t been treated with pesticides), moss, straw, pet fur (as long as it hasn’t been flea repellent treated), and cotton balls.
7. Garden with native plant species
Also consider planting specific plants that birds in your area use in nest construction. For example, finches not only eat thistle seeds, but they’ll also use thistle plants for nest construction, even delaying their nesting until the thistle is in full bloom. Seed-producing flowers and plants are a welcome food source for birds such as towhees, sparrows, quail, finches, and doves. It’s best to use native plants in the course of your gardening, because they’re already adapted to your region’s climate, and local birds are used to them already.
8. Keep migrating birds safe from pets & threats
Help birds complete their migratory marathon by keeping them safe in your neck-of-the-woods. Keep cats inside so they can’t trap unsuspecting birds, and keep a watchful eye on dogs as they roam the yard. Don’t treat your garden with pesticides or buy pre-treated planting seeds, as these are harmful to birds and the native insects they depend upon for food. For hummingbirds and small songbirds, even trace pesticide levels in their food can be very harmful to their tiny bodies. Help prevent window strikes by making sure glass is visible to birds with window decals or protective film. These simple steps will go a long way in keeping birds safe and healthy.