watching_birds-photo Watching, Attracting and Feeding Birds in New York
with Sam Crowe

Species Diversity

There are several steps you can take to attract a greater diversity of birds.

Habitat Development:
The most effective approach is to develop the habitat in your yard.  Plant a variety of flowers, shrubs, vines and trees. Leave the seed heads of fall-blooming flowers to remain in place through the fall and early winter, they are a good nature source of food for the birds.   Visit the Gardening section of this site for a list of plants.

Provide a variety of feeders and food choices:
Variety is the spice of life.  Black oil sunflower is the best all-around choice but you can spice things up by offering Nyjer  (A favorite of finches), Suet (popular with nuthatches, woodpeckers and many other species) and mealworms  (bluebirds love 'em).  You can even offer grape jelly for orioles if they are in your area.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Just Add Water:
Adding a birdbath is one of the best ways to attract a variety of species.  Species that do not normally visit feeders will visit birdbaths.

We'll cover birdbaths next week.

 We invite you to come back often.  The home page is updated every week.

Are birds not showing up at your new feeder?

Patience is the key, the birds will come.

It may take several days to 2 weeks or more for birds to locate your feeder and start coming to it regularly. You may find it more difficult to attract birds to your feeder if you start in the late spring or early summer when the wild food supply is at its peak.

It is normal to see fewer birds during parts of the year. If it appears they have abandoned you, just be patient, they will return.

Many people feed birds only in the winter but feeding all year round can be helpful to the birds. This is especially true during the nesting season when an extra source of food is always welcome. It may take the birds longer to find a new feeder in the spring and summer.

white-breasted nuthatch White-breasted Nuthatches are popular at feeders.  They will feed on peanuts, sunflower and suet.

Birding Quick Hits

Tired of fighting squirrels?  Try feeding them dried corn-on-the-cob away from your bird feeders.  Sometimes they will spend their time working on the hard corn and leave your feeders alone.

Learn about the Loggerhead Shrike.
loggerhead shrike

Frequently Asked Questions

I found a baby bird, what should I do?

An important question:  Is it really a baby bird (few feathers) or a fledgling?

Baby Bird:
If the bird has very few feathers the best thing you can do is try to find the nest and replace the bird.  Raising a baby bird is very difficult and the results ore usually not very good.  Baby birds are often fed a diet of soft insects and they learn a lot from their parents.  

If the bird is mostly covered in feathers and is moving around on its own, it has probably reached the fledgling state. It is normal for songbirds to leave their nest before they are able to fly. They may spend several days on the ground or in low vegetation, and they continue to be fed by adults during this time. Place the bird on your finger and see if it can grip firmly. If so, your best approach is to help the bird return to the care of its parents.

If you were not able to initially locate the nest, you might try again. Sit low on the ground near where you found the bird and wait quietly for 10-15 minutes. You might observe an adult bird returning to its nest, revealing the nest's location to you.

If you are not able to locate the nest, place the fledgling on a tree limb or in a nearby shrub or bush. You may even want to create a small, artificial nest. Place a small woven basket in a nearby shrub. The best basket choice would have a natural finish and open weave for draining. Line the basket with soft fabric (do not use lint from your dryer) and place the bird in the basket.

If you have time, you may wish to observe the bird from a distance. If the parent birds have not been injured, the chances are good that they will continue to feed the bird in its new nest. In fact, adult birds will often continue to feed their young for several weeks after they leave the nest and can fly on their own.

Bird identification

Learning to identify the birds you see is a fun and rewarding experience.  If you are a novice at identifying birds we have several options for you.

50 common New York birdsNifty Fifty Guides:  Our Nifty Fifty Guide to the Birds of New York is available on-line and in print.   It contains 25 common backyard birds and 25 additional common birds found in New York.  Purchase the print version.

The online version is shown below. Click on a corner to turn the page. has multiple resources for identifying a bird you have seen as well as information on improving your identification skills.   You can also send us an image on the web site and we will try to identify it for you.