By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Attracting pollinators and other native wildlife to the yard is a key point of interest for many gardeners. Both urban and rural growers delight in watching bees, butterflies, and birds flutter from one flower to another. That why many of us plant and grow small sections or entire gardens solely dedicated to this purpose.
You can also both feed and enjoy birds in the garden using a bouquet of deadhead cuttings, which is especially helpful during the fall and winter months.
What is a Bouquet Buffet for Birds?
This type of “buffet for birds” is sure to be attractive to wildlife, as well as beautiful. To begin the planning process, learn how these types of bouquet buffets work in the landscape.
Many species of backyard birds can be drawn to the garden. Sunflowers, zinnias, and even certain types of berries are just a few examples of plants attractive to wildlife. Rather than immediately deadheading spent garden flowers, many gardeners prefer to leave them for seed. Once the seed has formed, deadhead cuttings for birds. This can attract a wide array of feathered friends, especially as cooler weather arrives.
How to Deadhead Flowers for Birds
Feeding birds with deadhead materials will assist them as they work to consume much needed nutrients for winter or upcoming migrations. The decision to deadhead flowers for birds not only makes a difference in the overall usefulness of the garden, but it will also renew interest in a space that is otherwise slowing at the end of the season.
While the concept of planting flowering plants specifically for birds is not new, many have given the concept a unique twist. Rather than simply leaving old blooms on the plant, consider collecting the stems and bundling them into a bouquet. These bouquet buffets can then be hung from a tree or porch, where they can easily be accessed by feeding birds.
Bouquet buffets can also be situated near windows, where the activity may be easier to watch while indoors. Larger individual blooms, like sunflowers, can also be arranged in this manner or by simply leaving the flower heads near a frequently used perch.
Creating a buffet for birds will not only enhance the garden experience, but can also improve the overall health of visitors to your yard. By reducing the need for bird feeders, gardeners can help prevent the spread of different diseases which impact certain species of birds.
This article was last updated on
Read more about Beneficial Garden Friends
A persistent bird feeding myth is that feeding birds during the summer will make the birds dependent on handouts or lazy when seeking natural food sources. This is simply untrue—studies have shown that wild birds typically receive no more than 25 percent of their daily food from feeders, and for many backyard species the total is even lower. In fact, summer is an ideal time to feed birds because of the following:
- Long days give backyard birders more time to observe feeders and see many different hungry visitors.
- Birds are in their breeding plumage during the summer months, making identification easier and more enjoyable with bright colors and clear markings.
- Birds are raising their families, giving backyard birders the opportunity to watch nestlings mature as they learn to visit bird feeders.
- There is a greater variety of birds in northern areas during the summer months, and birders who only offer food in the winter will miss many amazing species.
At first, it may seem that fewer birds visit feeders in early to mid-summer, making the season less desirable for backyard birding. During early summer, however, many birds are nesting and are naturally more secretive, and while their chicks are very young these birds visit feeders only briefly. Furthermore, this is the time of year when many natural food sources—fruits, insects, seeds, etc.—are more readily available, decreasing birds' use of feeders. Persistent birders, however, can enjoy a bounty of summer birds by ensuring their feeders are filled with nutritious treats.
Best Types of Scraps
There are many different kitchen scraps that can appeal to backyard birds, including:
- Baked goods: Stale or dry bread, bread crusts, donuts, cakes, cookies, and crackers are all appealing to backyard birds. Break the products up into small pieces and soak very stale pieces in water before offering them to the birds. Uncooked pastry dough is also suitable. Whole grains and less processed baked goods are preferable.
- Cheese: Stale, hard bits of cheese will readily be eaten by birds. Mild flavors such as American or mild cheddar are most suitable, but soft cheeses such as cream cheese are not. No moldy or rancid cheese should be offered to birds at any time.
- Pasta and rice: Leftover cooked plain pasta or rice is a great source of carbohydrates, especially for granivorous birds. The scraps should be soft and chopped into small enough pieces to be carried by the birds. Avoid offering leftover pasta with heavy sauces, strong spices or thick cheeses.
- Vegetables: Birds eat a lot of seed and plant material, and scrap vegetables can be a welcome feeder treat. Frozen peas or corn (thawed first), leftover baked potatoes or bits of canned vegetables, even from canned soups, can all be offered to backyard birds.
- Meat: Insects are a popular source of protein for many birds. Offering scrap meats such as bacon rinds, beef grease drippings, beef fat trimmings, meat bones or marrow bones can help birds get essential protein even if insects aren’t available. As with cheese, no rancid or rotten meat should ever be available to birds.
- Pet food: Both dry and wet food for cats and dogs is formulated to be healthy for pets, and it can be an equally healthy food source for birds. Dry food should be moistened or crushed before offered to the birds.
- Fruit: Windfall or bruised fruit from backyard trees is always appetizing to the birds. The fruit can be collected and chopped up to add to feeders, or it can be left on trees for the birds to find. Other fruits, such as old berries, raisins, grapes, bananas, oranges, grapefruits and the seeds of watermelons, honeydew melons, pumpkins, and cantaloupes can also be offered to birds.
- Cereal: Stale or leftover cereal and oats, including rolled or quick oats, is a tasty bird treat. For the best nutrition and most attractiveness, offer birds cereal with lower sugar content and fewer artificial dyes.
- Nuts: While peanuts can easily be purchased raw as bird food, other nuts such as almonds, pecans, and walnuts are also tempting for birds. Offer finely crushed nuts or whole nuts for the birds to take, or use peanut butter to attract different birds. Coconut halves can also be used as small feeders in addition to being tasty treats themselves. Do not offer birds nuts with candy coatings or spice flavorings.
- Eggs and eggshells: While it may seem contrary at first, cooked eggs can be a popular feeder food that offers many essential nutrients for birds. Crushed eggshells are also an important source of calcium for nesting birds and grit to help birds’ digestion.
" data-caption="" data-expand="300" data-tracking-container="true" />
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
When Hanging a Bird Feeder
Take care when hanging bird feeders to be sure they are secure, safe, and firmly anchored so they will not fall and break.
- Choose a location out of the strongest winds to minimize swaying that can discourage birds and spill seed. Also keep feeders away from busy traffic areas such as sidewalks and pathways where they could be bumped or tipped.
- Check the sturdiness of the hook, branch, pole, or gutter where the feeder will be hung. Test that it will stay firmly secure even when the feeder is filled with heavy seed and visited by active birds.
- Ideally, hang bird feeders in shaded areas to protect seed, nectar, and suet from excessive spoilage. A lightly shaded location will also provide ideal lighting for watching or photographing birds without glare.
- Hang feeders near cover birds can use for shelter, such as a brush pile or nearby trees or shrubs, but not close enough for predators to be concealed and able to attack feeding birds.
- If squirrels are a problem, hang feeders at least six feet above the ground and 10-15 feet away from trees or structures where squirrels can jump. Other steps can also help make a feeder more squirrel-resistant.
- If needed to deter pests, you should use a baffle above a hanging feeder. This also helps shed rain or snow and keeps birdseed dry, so it does not spoil as quickly.
- Position feeders either closer than three feet or further than 10-15 feet from windows to minimize the risk of dangerous window collisions that can injure or kill birds.
- Check the feeder and its hook and cord regularly for signs of wear or damage that could cause the feeder to fall. It is easy to do this check each time the feeder is refilled.
- Remove hanging feeders during windy storms or other dangerous weather when tipping or falling is more possible.
There are four main types of suet feeders that are popular for offering suet to birds. While many birders may prefer one type of suet holder, using several types of feeders will attract even more suet-loving birds that have different feeding preferences.
- Suet Cages
Cage feeders are the most popular type of suet feeder, and are typically made of coated wire for strength and easy cleaning. Cages may be made to hang independently or may be attached to hopper feeders that will hold seed as well. Many cage suet feeders include tail props for woodpeckers or other clinging birds, and covers are also popular to protect the suet from the elements.
- Suet Logs
Simple logs with predrilled holes are made for feeding suet plugs. The plugs are inserted into the holes and birds can cling to the wood, just as the birds would naturally cling to a tree trunk or branch. The wood keeps the suet dry and protected. These feeders are also easy to make with a spade drill bit the same diameter as suet plugs. Many log feeders will have natural bark or cut ridges to provide extra clinging security for feeding birds.
- Mesh Bags
A hanging mesh bag can be filled with suet for small clinging birds to enjoy. This is an easy suet feeder for recycling onion bags or similar items. Balls, chunks, or cakes of suet can fill the bag rather than needing specific sizes or shapes for the feeder. Suet bags are not always best for feeding larger woodpeckers or suet-loving birds, however, but they are ideal for small birds such as nuthatches, tits, and chickadees.
- Open Trays
A suet cake or leftover pieces of suet can be added to a platform or tray feeder for many birds to sample, including birds that may never visit more specialized suet holders. Small suet chunks, pellets, or crumbles are made for tray feeders, or birders can shred or chop larger suet cakes into tasty bites that will tempt small birds. This is also a great way to get birds to try suet if they aren't used to it.
These basic feeder styles come in many different sizes and designs. Popular features of many suet feeders include:
- Larger capacity to hold multiple suet cakes at once
- Grills, cages, or mesh to exclude larger bully birds from the feeder
- Built-in baffles to deter squirrels, raccoons, and other wildlife
- Upside-down designs to keep larger birds and squirrels away
While suet feeders are popular, it is also possible to offer suet without a specialized feeder. Soft suet can be spread directly on the bark of a tree for woodpeckers, nuthatches, or creepers. If suet is too hard to spread, it can be gently heated until it softens and is spreadable.
So you have a collection of wool, dog hair and strips of natural fibers. How do you do deliver it to birds? My favorite method: Cram a mix of the items into a suet feeder, giving songbirds access to a smorgasbord of building basics. Or, fill the head of a kitchen whisk with the various materials and hang the whisk by its handle from a tree or shrub. Do-it-yourselfers might like tocheck out a designfor an easily made wire holder.
Aside from bribing them into your garden with foodstuff, providing nesting material is one of the best ways to attract spring and summer birds. If you offer it, they will build.
This hummingbird has edged its nest, in Mesa, Arizona, with fluffy material that may include spider webs. Photo by Kevin Blondelli.
Become a Wildlife Gardener with National Wildlife Federation. It’s free and you’ll get great wildlife gardening tips and learn how to certify your garden as an official habitat.
More information from National Wildlife magazine: