Friday, November 10, 2023

Is bird feeding for the birds?

By Kendra Raymond

It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn toward preparing for winter weather; battening down the hatches and hunkering down to ride it out. For those of us who do not partake in outdoor winter activities, wildlife feeding may provide a welcome outlet to the winter doldrums.

A chipmunk snacks on a peanut at a home
in Raymond earlier this week. Feeding
wildlife can be a worthy pursuit for
some residents during Maine's long
winter months.
Maine Audubon is a great resource for home nature enthusiasts, offering a vast array of interactive educational opportunities throughout the state.

David Lamon of Field’s Pond Audubon Center in Holden recommends bird feeding.

“It’s a great hobby, and a way to check in with your environment so you can keep track of what’s going on in nature seasonally,” he said. “It brings (the birds) closer to you to enjoy, so it’s an educational piece as well.”

Lamon debunked a common myth that birds need feeding by saying that they are adapted to survival in our area without supplemental help.

The equipment

A tray feeder will satisfy ground feeding species such as juncos and doves. You can provide a variety of seeds, dried fruits, and nuts.

For seed eaters such as nuthatch, the hopper feeder is convenient. This is usually a good-sized unit that holds a large quantity of seeds. It may be wise to purchase a squirrel baffle which will keep them on the ground where there are plenty of leftovers.

And in speaking of squirrels, Lamon says, “You just have to live with them. They will feed for a while, and then they’re off doing their own thing before you know it.”

A tube feeder is a great choice for smaller species like goldfinch. It is customized to accommodate our tiniest friends with short perches and metal ports.

My home in Raymond is situated on an old farm property. I am fortunate to be blessed with a plethora of heritage stone walls throughout the yard. This provides a great natural feeding spot for birds, chipmunks, and other wildlife. It’s a busy and pleasant spot throughout the day. Someone once told me that birds eat when we do; and I have observed this to be true.

The menu

Depending on your target audience, you can curate a seed selection to attract specific customers. My favorite seed mix is Blue Seal’s Concerto mix. This mixture offers sunflowers for chipmunks and chickadees, safflower for cardinals, and millet for ground feeders like sparrows. I also have good luck with black oil or shelled sunflower.

Suet is a great source of fat and protein for birds and is inexpensive to purchase. A friend of mine makes their own suet from bacon grease, peanut butter, corn meal, craisins and nuts.

A peanut butter feeder can be made by drilling 1.5-inch holes in a log and attaching a hanger. This is an irresistible treat for woodpeckers as it gives them quick energy in cold temperatures.


Assuming you can develop a solid clientele, your feeder will need to be filled regularly. Many people choose to remove their feeders in the spring. Bears often damage or ruin feeders left out after they emerge from the winter.

It is necessary to periodically clean your bird feeders to prevent the spread of disease as often as every two weeks, according to Project FeederWatch. Simply empty your feeder and wash with hot water and dish soap solution it to air dry completely.

The National Wildlife Health Center recommends cleaning bird baths and feeders with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach.


Keep your feeders suspended and provide visibility so the birds can see any lurking cats. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension tells us that cats are extremely efficient hunters and can devastate local bird populations.

It is important to place your feeders in a location where birds feel safe. Proximity to a tree or shrub is ideal.

Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds is a great reference for bird identification. If you find this particularly interesting, you may want to consider joining an Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Local locations include Biddeford Pool, Falmouth, Freeport, and Scarborough and are free to the public.

To learn more about birding visit:

For more information on home bird feeding: <

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