National Bird-Feeding Society
The National Bird-Feeding Society (NBFS) is an organization in the United States whose mission is to make the hobby of bird feeding better, both for people who feed wild birds and for the birds themselves. To fulfill its mission, the NBFS conducts research and promotes education on wild bird feeding
Since its establishment in 1989, the NBFS has served as a resource for individuals to learn more about best bird feeding practices, and to provide individuals with information on how to move the bird feeding hobby beyond the backyard. The NBFS provides information on bird seed and bird feeder preferences, and provides bird feeding tips and a guide to better bird feeding.
Bird seed preferences
In 2008, a three-year, one million dollar study of bird seed and bird feeder preferences in the United States and Canada was completed. The study known as PROJECT WILDBIRD was coordinated by Dr. David Horn and Stacey Johansen at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and funded by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry Research Foundation.
Based on results of PROJECT WILDBIRD, of ten seed types most commonly found in seed blends, five are most preferred: black-oil sunflower, Nyjer, fine and medium sunflower chips, and white proso millet. Three major patterns of bird seed preferences were observed. First, smaller finches, such as American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin, prefer Nyjer (also referred to as thistle) and sunflower hearts (also referred to as hulled sunflower and sunflower chips). Second, species that a grab a seed from a bird feeder and eat it elsewhere such as Black-capped Chickadee, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and White-breasted Nuthatch; larger finches such as House Finch and Purple Finch; and Northern Cardinal, prefer black-oil sunflower seed. Finally, white proso millet is the preferred seed of ground-feeding birds such as Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, and Mourning Dove.
There are also bird seeds that are unattractive to birds. In particular, red milo is a seed few birds readily consume. Thus, bird seed blends with large amounts of red milo may go unused by wild birds and lead to a poor bird feeding experience for people feeding birds.
Bird feeder preferences
While there is a vast array of bird feeders, feeders are typically placed into three categories: tube, hopper, and platform. Tube feeders are long and slender and are typically constructed of plastic. Hopper feeders resemble small houses, and are made of a combination of metal, wood, and plastic. Platform feeders are large trays that are often covered and are typically made of wood or plastic.
All three feeder types can dispense a variety of bird seed types, however, there are specialty feeders for distributing Nyjer and sunflower hearts or whole peanuts (peanuts that are out of the shell and split in half). As a generalization, tube feeders attract small-bodied birds and larger birds are unable to perch on tubular feeders. Hopper and platform feeders attract birds of all sizes.
Choosing a bird feeder is just as important as choosing the bird seed to offer. For those wanting to attract large amounts of small songbirds, a tube feeder is best. Hopper feeders attract a wide variety of species, and allow for large quantities of bird seed to be stored. Platform feeders attract the greatest number of bird species, but the bird seed is more prone to getting wet or blown off the feeder from the wind.
For individuals who want to attract more species of birds to their feeders, specialty feeders are available. Specialty feeders are made for suet to attract woodpeckers, nectar to attract hummingbirds and orioles, fruits to attract robins, and insects to attract bluebirds. There are also feeders specifically designed to hold whole peanuts, sunflower hearts and Nyjer.
Bird feeding tips
1) Place bird feeders in locations where they can readily be seen through a viewing window.
2) Start with a basic bird feeding set-up: tubular feeder filled with black-oil sunflower seed.
3) Add other types of bird seeds and feeders such as Nyjer in a Nyjer feeder, and hopper or platform feeders filled with black-oil sunflower, sunflower hearts, and whole peanuts.
4) Alternative foods such as suet, fruit, insects, and nectar, as well as water, may also attract additional species of birds.
5) Each season of the year, there may be a different suite of species visiting your yard. These bird species may have different bird food and feeder preferences.
6) In addition to bird seed and feeders, provide birds with habitat, water, and bird houses.
7) Keep your birds safe by protecting them from cats and bird-window collisions, and regularly clean your feeders.
8) To learn more about birds visiting your yard, use the tools of a birdwatcher: binoculars and a field guide.
9) There are birds you can’t see in your yard. To see these birds, take a trip to your local, state, and national parks and explore your natural areas.
The NBFS was formed in 1989 with the assistance of the Wild Bird Feeding Industry, the trade association for the bird feeding industry. In the early years of the society, the organization published newsletters, provided educational resources for instructors, and ran photo contests.
For nearly 15 years, the NBFS mailed a bi-monthly newsletter, “The Bird’s-Eye reView,” to its members. The newsletter featured tips, tales, and tactics used for attracting wild birds. The society also developed a “Kit for Kids,” a collection of materials for teachers, and two booklets on bird feeding: “The Story of Bird Feeding,” and “The Dynamics of Bird Feeding.” In its early years, the Society also held photo contests with individuals submitting photos in categories such as birds at feeders and most unusual feeder visitor.
Currently, the NBFS promotes education and conservation initiatives that raise awareness about bird feeding and the protection of wild birds both at one’s home and beyond the backyard. The NBFS also sponsors “National Bird-Feeding Month.” National Bird-Feeding Month is in February and is designed to promote the bird feeding hobby. The society also provides a series of brochures on bird seed preferences, bird feeder preferences, tips on bird feeding, and a guide to better bird feeding.
- About the NBFS
- Baicich, Paul J., Margaret A. Barker and Carrol L. Henderson. Feeding Wild Birds: A Short History in America (USA: Wild Bird Centers of America, Inc., 2010) ISBN 1-4515-1005-5
- Lukas, David. "For the Birds: Which Seeds are Best?" National Wildlife Magazine Oct./Nov. 2009: 14-15. Print.
- Freeman, Huey. "Every Move They Make." Herald & Review [Decatur, IL] 10 November 2009. Print.
- Richardson, Scott. "Feeding Time." Pantagraph [Bloomington, IL] 31 January 2010. Print.
- Baicich, Paul J. "Revitalizing the NBFS." Bird Watcher's Digest Nov./Dec. 2009: 11. Print.
- "Millikin Becomes New Home of National Bird-Feeding Society." The Southern [Carbondale, IL] 31 January 2010. Print.
- Busch, Simon. "An Avian Appetite." Financial Times [United Kingdom] 20 January 2008. Web.
- Reichenberger, Larry. "Bird Feeding Faceoff." The Homestead 2008: 22-23. Print.
- Bird, David M. "Help Determine the Future Menus for Feeder Birds." Bird Watcher's Digest Mar./Apr. 2008: 8. Print.
- PROJECT WILDBIRD Results
- Freeman, Huey. "Turns Out, Birds Really are Picky Eaters." Herald & Review [Decatur, IL] 10 November 2009. Print.
- Bird Feeders
- NBFS Wild Bird Feeder Preference Chart
- Other Bird Feeders
- Foley, Kaitlin. "Going to the Birds." Hardware Retailing Mar. 2010: 60-64. Print.
- Best Bird-Feeding Practices