I know one of the things that discourages first-time birders is the information overload. Everybody who wants to start birding can get overrun by all the things they think they need to know before they start. They may have friends and neighbors who swear by this or that. Most of the time they just get discouraged and quit because all they’ve attracted to their back yards is squirrels or other wildlife. On top of that, their first feeder is being mobbed by one species and nothing else will venture there.
Let me first tell you I know where you’re coming from. My first foray into feeding eighteen years ago was a standard hopper feeder a bird store (protecting the innocent) employee recommended I start with. I had a pole system (I still have the same one today) and the hopper feeder with sunflower seeds only. Pretty easy, huh?
That was until I looked out that early February morning to see that it was being mobbed by grackles. This continued until I was advised to switch to safflower ($$$) seed. Sure, the grackle population gradually decreased but then it was mourning doves plopping their butts on the tray and not allowing anything else to feed. Swapping one problem for another, I finally started on my journey of exclusive feeding and discouraging the birds that really don’t need my help. I now feed primarily only the birds I want to feed and discourage the rest.
You CAN Start Birding Easier
When I look back, I wish I had started by just providing water for the birds. I know most people think of this as something done as an afterthought. What respectable human would offer food without drink, right? But I’m here to tell you it’s a great and relatively inexpensive way to start birding and find out what you have in your back yard. Had I done this, I would have known there were huge winter flocks of grackles around at the time. I could have saved myself some time and aggravation. I touch on this in my article “The Top 5 Benefits of Paying Attention.”
Here’s What I Recommend
To get yourself off the ground, I recommend five things:
- Provide water sources close to the ground and standard birdbath height.
- Keep them clean and full every day.
- Observe for at least 15 minutes each day what comes to the water source.
- Mix it up by watching morning, midday and before sunset.
- Write down what you’ve seen!
That’s it! After about a month of observation you should be able to go to the Cornell site or your nearest birding store and tell them what you’ve seen. Then you can plan which feeder and food you want to start with. Easy, Peezy!
All of us are busy. But we try to make time for the things that matter to us. If birding or feeding birds is one of those things for you then let me give you one reminder: maybe the way you start birding is the way you continue birding!
Seriously, most people are blown away just in the first step of this plan. They’re really not interested in buying seed, feeders and having to clean them regularly. This is NOT a reason not to start! Also, you don’t even have to buy birdbaths if you don’t want to. You can put out a couple of those clay plant bases at different heights to start with. Maybe one is just in the grass and the other on a picnic table? Use your imagination!
As you can see on Amazon, there is a WIDE range of styles and prices. The photo above is my flagship bird bath. It’s a poly-resin I bought at Home Depot. It’s lasted 18+ years through all the seasons. The smaller bath is one I picked up at Wild Birds Unlimited and have only replaced the dish once in all these years.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BREAK THE BANK!
I love doing this and would love to help you in any way I can! Leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to get you started towards any goal you have.
If you purchase products using the Amazon link, I receive a small commission. The Home Depot and Wild Birds Unlimited links are NOT affiliate links.