Six best buys to attract birds (A few of my favourites)

How to attract backyard birds with feeders, fountains and birdbaths

Backyard birders are always looking for the next best thing to attract more birds to their backyard.

A fancy new bird feeder, a ground bird bath and a few new bird houses are always welcome additions.

Here are six favourite accessories backyard bird lovers should consider: a bird feeding pole system; a seed cylinder spike; a hummingbird swing; bird bath algae remover or a good cleaning brush, a solar fountain; and high quality bird feed.

The joy birds bring and the life they add to our gardens makes buying these accessories all worthwhile.

Over the years, I’ve discovered more than a few items that have helped attract birds to the backyard and I thought I’d share some of them here with you. I’ve left out my trusty hummingbird swing that you can read about in a separate post here.

While I get great enjoyment from my bird feeding stations, providing natural food sources to our feathered friends is always the goal we should aspire to in our gardens. I have written a comprehensive post on feeding birds naturally. You can read about it here.

For more suggestions and some of my favourite garden things, be sure to check out my Favourite Things post.

1) Bird Feeding Pole System

Without a doubt my most important purchase some 20-plus years ago was a bird feeding pole system that allowed me to build a comprehensive bird feeding station over several years. It was purchased at Wild Birds Unlimited and has truly stood the test of time. Start with a simple pole, stabilizing system and squirrel baffle and add to that one element at a time depending on both the type of birds in your area and the species you want to attract. A simple pole can start as low as $22-$23 such as this one from Perky-Pet. A few dollars more will get you the Pennington Premium Feeder Pole Plus Bird Feeder System with a more heavy-duty, powder coated finish steel pole with hangers for feeders. This is a great starter kit that would allow you to put up at least three different feeders and provide feed for a wide variety of backyard birds.

A young woodpecker takes a turn at the cylinder seed feeder that sits atop our birdfeeding pole system as a blue jay waits its turn.

A young woodpecker takes a turn at the cylinder seed feeder that sits atop our birdfeeding pole system as a blue jay waits its turn.

Moving up from there, is the Premium Bird Feeding Station Kit from yosager for under $160.00 Cdn that includes a metal suet feeder, bird bath, feeding bowl for fruits or meal worms, as well as twin top hooks to hang large bird feeders. The station also includes 5 prongs that go into the ground to stabilize the feeding station. The stabilizing bars can be important to hold the units especially if you have sandy soil. I use two large rocks on my stabilizing bars to keep the unit super stabilized.

2) The Seed Cylinder and spike accessory

Keeping with the pole system, my best accessory without a doubt has been a spike topper that has played a key roll in bringing a huge variety of birds to my feeder. Not only have the seed cylinders that fit over the spike helped to bring a variety of birds to the feeder, but the birds who do visit stay at the feeder longer working to get the seeds from the compressed feed cylinder.

Mine was a simple spike that could be added to the top of the feeder system as a rather inexpensive accessory. Wild Bird Unlimited’s pole systems are expensive but the accessories are numerous and well thought out.

The Mr. Bird Seed Cylinder EZ Feeder system, though a little pricey for the feeder and the seed cylinders, is a great alternative to the spike topper and allows you to use the system in a variety of ways. The number of seed cyclinders are impressive and offer mixtures to attract a host of different birds throughout the seasons. The heavy duty unit holds both the small and large seed cylinders and the bottom hook allows you to link several feeders together. Similar to the spike I use, the seed cylinders are simply slid over the main shaft of the unit.

A less expensive alternative is the Heath Mfg. Co. Stack’Ms Seed Cake Feeder for under $22 Cdn. This unit has a roof to protect the pucks from rain and snow. It can hold up to 4 stack’Ms pucks allowing you to offer a wider variety of seeds. The perch at the bottom of the unit is great for smaller birds. A word of warning, reviewers say the roof screws into the spike and its not uncommon for the threads to get stripped. Do not over tighten the unit. The pucks are also expensive but I have seen similar items for sale locally at much cheaper prices.

3) Bird bath algae remover or a good cleaning brush

Bird baths can get gross real fast. Algae tends to get a hold of them quickly during the summer months and even if you change the water regularly, and give them a good scrubbing, it’s difficult to eliminate the algae.

That’s when you turn to one of the Algae remover microbe clarifiers that seem to work well in keeping the water clear.

A few drops once a week is usually all it takes to keep the bird baths clear. Add a few drops after cleaning the bath and then just top up the water adding the cleaner once a week or as needed.

There are several available. I have had a bottle for a number of years that continues to work despite being left outside in the shed all winter. The label is long worn off, so I can’t tell you what type it is but here are a couple that should work for you. Sanco Bird Bath & Fountain Maintenance, 100% safe for birds and wildlife and uses natural enzymes to keep the water and birdbath clean. Aquascape Clean Water Treatment used primarily for fountains, waterfalls container water gardens.

The Microbe Lift 32-Ounce Pond Bird Bath and Statuary Cleaner says it combines biodegradable resources and technology along with micro emulsion technology to safely remover organic debris and mineral deposits. It’s safe for use around birds, animals and humans and gets top ratings from users experienced with the product.

Of course a solid cleaning brush and a weekly scrubbing and daily water refresh gets the job done as well but requires us to stay on top of the situation. If you have several bird baths they can be difficult to keep clean.

4) Solar fountains

I have mentioned these before in other blogs and have to recommend them again here for their multiple uses in the garden. These small, inexpensive solar pumps can be used anywhere in the garden where you can get some sun. I use two of the smaller pumps – one as a recirculating pump in a bird bath tied to a dripper, and another in my container water garden pond to circulate the water and create a gentle fountain stream for hummingbirds to enjoy. I use a larger, more expensive unit in a bubbling rock. This unit came complete with a battery to allow me to run a small led light and the pump during the evening or on an overcast day. Both the large and small units have worked perfectly for several years.

5) Quality bird seed

Feeding the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and racoons can get expensive. Keeping squirrels and racoons off the feeder is the first step to solving the problem. The second is using a high quality feed that ensures the birds eat all the food rather than digging through it and throwing most of it on the ground. When too much food accumulates on the ground it can create a real mess and lead to unwanted rodents like mice and rats. This often leads to people new to birdfeeding deciding not to continue feeding the birds, when all they had to do was move to one of the no-mess feeds that are usually made up of high-value seeds that have already been shelled. The seed is expensive but there is no filler. The bag of seed, providing squirrels don’t have access to your feeders, will last much longer than a regular bag of assorted bird feed.

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Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.

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