Fall in Bettendorf is a captivating yet bittersweet time for us bird lovers; with the days growing shorter and the air turning crisper, many of the birds that kept us company all summer are getting ready to head south for the winter. The good news is that before they bid farewell, they're almost certain to stop by your house for some much-needed fuel and rest. To help them prepare for their journeys, let's fly into the wonderful world of fall bird feeding in the Quad Cities!
Common Bird Species in Iowa
Before we talk about what to feed our feathery friends, let's first get to know them a little better! These are some of Iowa's most common avian residents:
Eastern Bluebird: With its vibrant blue plumage and cheerful song, the Eastern Bluebird is a common sight in Iowa, and many of them stay all winter. They love open spaces and are often found in fields and meadows.
American Goldfinch: These bright yellow birds are a delight to watch, especially in the fall when they gather to feast on sunflower seeds.
Northern Cardinal: The vibrant red plumage and distinct chirping of the Northern Cardinal make them a year-round favorite in Iowa.
Dark-eyed Junco: These small, gray birds are known for their winter visits to Iowa. They love millet seeds, so be sure to have some on hand!
Mourning Dove: Their gentle cooing is a familiar sound in Iowa, and they're quite fond of safflower seeds.
American Robin: While robins are often associated with spring, they're also a common sight during the fall, when they feast on berries and worms.
Selecting the Right Bird Feeders
Choosing the right bird feeders is essential for attracting our feathered friends to your backyard. Here are some of our favorite options that are perfect for local bird species:
Hopper Feeders: Perfect for larger birds like cardinals and bluejays, fill hopper feeders with a mix of sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn.
Tube Feeders: Tube feeders are an excellent choice for smaller birds like finches and chickadees.
Platform Feeders: Mourning doves and sparrows enjoy platform feeders, especially when they're filled with safflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn.
Suet Feeders: In the colder months, suet feeders with high-energy suet cakes are a hit with woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and wrens.
Bird Feed Options for Iowa Birds
When it comes to feeding Iowa's bird population at home, it's essential to provide a variety of options to cater to their diverse tastes. Here's a breakdown of the best seeds, nectar, and suet for our local avian friends:
Sunflower Seeds: A bird-feeding staple, sunflower seeds attract a wide range of birds, including cardinals, finches, and chickadees.
Safflower Seeds: Safflower seeds are favored by cardinals, sparrows, and mourning doves. They're also an excellent option for repelling squirrels, as they can't stand them!
Nyjer (Thistle) Seed: Goldfinches can't resist Nyjer seed. Offer it in a tube feeder, and watch these bright yellow beauties flock to your garden.
Millet: Millet is a favorite of sparrows, juncos, and doves. It can be scattered on platform feeders and mixed in with other seeds.
Nectar: If you want to attract hummingbirds, nectar is a must. Use a hummingbird feeder filled with a mixture of sugar and water (four parts water to one part sugar), and avoid using pre-mixed solutions that contain red dyes.
Suet: Suet cakes are a high-energy treat for woodpeckers, wrens, and other suet-loving birds. Hang suet feeders in your garden for them to enjoy year-round.
Planting Native Flowers for Iowa Birds
If you're looking to take your bird-friendly garden to the next level, consider planting native flowers that both provide food and create a natural habitat for our local bird populations. Here are some native flora suggestions for Iowa bird gardens:
Coneflowers (Echinacea): These vibrant purple flowers attract goldfinches, sparrows, and hummingbirds, providing both nectar and seeds in the late-fall early-winter months.
Black-eyed Susans: Black-eyed Susans offer seeds and nectar, making them a favorite of finches, sparrows, and butterflies.
Milkweed: Milkweed is essential for monarch butterflies, whose caterpillars feed on its leaves. It also attracts bees and other friendly flying friends.
Asters: Asters provide nectar and seeds, making them a valuable resource for late-season birds and pollinators.
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis): This striking red flower attracts hummingbirds with its nectar-rich blossoms.
Planting these native flowers enhances the beauty of your garden and transforms your backyard into a welcoming habitat for a wide range of bird species. However, they'll still need a few other things to make their migration season easier, so remember these tips and tricks to make your backyard a local birding hotspot:
- Provide Fresh Water: Birds still need lots of water in the colder months for drinking and bathing, so keep a clean bird bath or small water feature accessible.
- Offer Shelter: Shrubs and trees provide natural shelter for birds, so plant a few now if you haven't already to give them a safe place to rest.
- Minimize Pesticides: Try to limit the use of pesticides in your garden, as they can harm both birds and the insects they feed on.
- Year-Round Feeding: Don't forget about your feathered friends during the winter months. Keep your feeders stocked year-round, and you'll be rewarded with visits from winter birds like juncos and woodpeckers!
Feeding birds this winter is a fantastic way to help our local wildlife during one of Iowa's harshest and most unforgiving seasons. Here at Wallace's Garden Center, we're fully stocked with supplies for all of your Bettendorf birding adventures, so come see us today for feeders, seeds, and early gift ideas for the bird lovers in your life!