Bird Food and Feeders

Bird Food, Bird Feeders and Feeder Maintenance

Yukon Bird Club

13 May 2021

The food you provide in your bird feeder should be seen as a supplement to the natural foods birds rely on, not a replacement for them. Feeding is most helpful to birds during the late fall, winter, and early spring when birds are migrating, or trying to survive the rigours of winter.

The most likely birds seen at feeders in the Yukon are: Chickadee (Black-capped, Boreal, and Mountain), Pine Grosbeak, House Sparrow (only in Whitehorse), Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Black-billed Magpie, Canada Jay, Crossbills (Red and White-winged), and Common Redpoll. During the fall and spring migration there will be a much larger variety, including many sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and Pine Siskins.

What Food?

  • There are a multitude of “wild bird” foods sold in stores, but not all of them will be favoured by the birds typically found in the Yukon.
  • In the Yukon, black, oiled sunflower seeds and millet are recommended. These work well to help sustain birds during the winter and are eaten by many bird species, both resident and migratory. In the summer, there’s plenty of wild food available so feeding birds isn’t necessary.
  • In the summer, replace your feeder with water. This will provide drinking and preening water for the birds and is less likely to attract unwanted wildlife.

Project FeederWatch information on feeding birds

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch provides food and feeder preferences of common feeder birds, which covers many species that are found in the Yukon in the winter including American Crow, Black-billed Magpie, Chickadees (all three species), Bohemian Waxwing, Common Raven, Common Redpoll, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Canada (Gray) Jay, House Sparrow, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rosy Finch, Steller’s Jay.

You can also use this guide to predict which species of bird could appear at your feeder depending on your region, feeder type, and the food you have on offer.

On the Project FeederWatch site you’ll also find answers to many common questions in the Feeding Birds FAQs.

Bird Feeders

There are many types of feeders on the market and even more home-made variations. Here are some suggestions for the type of feeders and feeder maintenance to consider for Yukon birds.

  • Before you buy or make a bird feeder think about how easy it is to clean. Feeders should be cleaned regularly to help avoid a build-up of mold and bacteria that can harm birds. Consider how easy it is to take apart the feeder and put it back together again!
  • Tube feeders and table feeders are usually more than adequate for most Yukon birds seen at feeders.
  • Please see Yukon Bird Club’s information on birds and windows when placing feeders.
  • If you’re putting out a new feeder for the first time, only partly fill it. Gauge how quickly the feed is being taken by the birds (or other wildlife). This is partly because you should clean the feeder about every two weeks and this will likely be easier when the feeder is empty. It will also help prevent bird food in a feeder from going moldy if it isn’t taken quickly by the birds.

Feeder Maintenance

  • Cleaning your feeder, regardless of type, is important even in winter. It’s recommended that you clean the feeder every time you need to refill it or at least once per month. Scrub off any visible debris and soak the feeder in a diluted bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water), then thoroughly rinse it and let it dry fully before refilling it with bird food. Although different diseases can affect birds, the main infection you’re trying to prevent is salmonella which is more likely to spread when birds congregate in the same area, such as a feeder.

If you have suggestions for improving the above information please contact yukonbirdclub@yukonbirds.ca.

Information Sources

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. allaboutbirds.org and feederwatch.org

The National Audubon Society. audubon.org

Awareness, Appreciation and Conservation of Yukon Birds and their Habitats