Pennington Wild Birds Frequently Asked Questions
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Wild Bird FAQs

Black-capped Chickadee in Winter

Seed & Feed

Black oil sunflower seed: Black oil sunflower seed is high in energy and has thin shells, making it the preferred food item for a wide variety of birds like cardinals, chickadees, titmice, finches, sparrows and woodpeckers.

Cracked corn: Corn is an inexpensive grain that is a favorite of birds like wild turkeys and ducks, while cracked corn will attract ground-eating birds like doves, quail, and sparrows.

Fruit: Robins, mockingbirds, catbirds, bluebirds and waxwings are all species that enjoy fresh and dried fruit (and dried seeds of fruits like pumpkins or apples). Oranges cut in half will often attract orioles as well.

Hulled sunflower seed: Hulled seeds are simply seeds with the shell removed. The combination of high nutritional value with ease of consumption makes hulled sunflower a favorite of all seed eating birds.

Mealworms: Live or dried larvae of the mealworm beetle provide a high protein treat for many birds such as chickadees, titmice, wrens, and nuthatches. It is one of the only food items that reliably attract bluebirds.

Millet: Millet is a favored food of many smaller, ground foraging birds, such as juncos and sparrows.

Milo: A reddish-colored, round grain, milo is favored by ground-feeding birds like sparrows, doves, quail, wild turkeys, towhees and jays.

Nyjer (thistle) seed: Often called "thistle" seed, nyjer attracts finches including American goldfinches, purple finches, pine siskins, and common redpolls.

Oats: Ground foraging species most likely to be attracted to oats include doves, quail, wild turkeys and juncos.

Peanut hearts: Best offered in a small hopper or on a platform feeder, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and jays are most likely to take advantage of this food.

Peanuts: Larger birds like jays and woodpeckers may grab several peanuts at a time and fly off to hide them for later consumption. Smaller birds like chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice will have more success feeding on shelled peanuts. Avoid salted peanuts or peanuts that have been roasted with any coatings or flavorings.

Safflower: Resembling white sunflower seed, safflower attracts cardinals, nuthatches, sparrows and woodpeckers while not being preferred by bully birds like crows and blackbirds.

Suet: A good choice for attracting robins, orioles, wrens, chickadees, woodpeckers, bluebirds, sapsuckers and warblers, suet can be purchased as processed cake that includes seeds, berries, and other ingredients.

Nectar (sugar water): is the preferred food of hummingbirds and orioles.

To draw in specific bird species, it is best to look up and provide their preferred food in the preferred type of feeder. One of the best resources for this information by species is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s AllAboutBirds.org guide. In the Backyard Tips section of each species overview, you will find exactly what a given bird prefers, seasonal range maps, birdsong recordings, ID tips and more.

To some degree it depends on what birds are already present in the area, since getting them to find a new feeder will be the easiest way to establish a new feeder. That said, black oil sunflower seed is the preferred seed by the largest number of backyard birds, so starting there and slowly transitioning to a more diverse mix will likely get the quickest results for many new birders hanging a feeder for the first time.

Many seeds and mixes work with most of our seed feeders. Our tube feeders have adjustable seed ports suitable for tiny nyjer (thistle) seed and finch seed blends. Our feeders that feature suet cages can accommodate suet and seed cakes. Our hummingbird feeders hold hummingbird nectar. The rest of our seed and mixes can go in any of our seed feeders.

Birds require foods with high protein and fat content, requiring up to 10,000 calories a day, especially during migration, breeding season and on frigid winter days. Additionally, being efficient about what they eat is critical; birds assess potential food items for not only nutritional content and quality, but also how easy a type of food is to consume while avoiding predators. Differences in what a given bird species has adapted to eat will change what each type of bird favors, though black oil sunflower, white proso millet, nyjer (thistle) seed and sunflower chips are favorites of most backyard birds.

Most of our bird seed is not sterilized, so there is a possibility of the seeds sprouting when they fall. If this is a concern for you, we recommend placing a tray below the bird feeders to catch the seed or something over the ground to prevent seed to soil contact. The one exception is our thistle seed, which is sterilized and will not germinate.

Regardless of what season or weather conditions, know that birds are always around and enjoy supplementing their diet with wild bird feed. During spring and fall migration, since the kind of birds flying through yards can change drastically from day to day, providing more diverse premium mixes (including thistle seed, hulled seed, dried fruit, dried mealworms, etc.) can attract birds you may only see in your area on their long-distance journeys for a few weeks out of the year. Additionally, once warm spring weather arrives through to the beginning of winter weather, hummingbird feeders can be hung to attract hummingbirds and orioles. During summer heat, keep food that can spoil quickly (like nectar and suet) out of direct sunlight, and consider providing water to attract a wider variety of birds. In winter cold, provide foods that are high in calorie content (such as black oil sunflower seed) to help winter visitors generate the body heat they need. On a related note, during freezing or severe weather conditions, consider leaving up out-of-use bird houses that can be used for temporary shelter.

Since insects are harder to find and birds burn more calories keeping warm, you may need to alter the kind of feed you offer birds during winter. Sunflower seed has a high calorie per ounce ratio due to high fat and protein content. Black oil sunflower seed (and mixes including it), peanut chips, sunflower chips, and/or dried fruit are a staple during winter. Nyjer (thistle) seed is another great option for feeding winter finches if you have one of our tube feeders. Suet is also a good high energy, high fat substance many birds love. Also note that birds still need access to water in the winter, so consider providing a bird bath with a built-in heater.

The common feed recommended during dry winter conditions still apply in snowy conditions, however, there are a few extra considerations apply to feeders. First, the more covered the feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays can be the better spoilage and mildew can be prevented. Secondly, if snow and ice accumulate near seed, it can go bad quicker (especially thistle seed and hulled seed). Lastly, moving feeders exposed to severe winds to more sheltered locations will also help. Tip: Switching to a feeder with a wider roof or adding a baffle above the feeder can help shield feed from precipitation.

Even with our state of the art cleaning systems, occasionally towards the end of a run, fine dust will gather and settle along with excessive chaff (sticks & stems) that has been separated from the good seed. Bags containing excessive chaff are to be thrown off (by hand) to ensure unsightly product doesn’t reach our customers. If you believe you have purchased a bag with excessive chaff, please contact our customer service team.

Eventually we all encounter molting or bald birds at our feeders, however these are normal signs of a bird renewing its plumage and don't indicate severe illness. Additionally, natural deformities like discolored feathers, overgrown bills, crooked talons and the like aren't signs of illness. Some combination of wet, crusty or swollen eyes, matted feathers, rapid or trouble breathing, inability to fly properly, and/or sitting still - even when approached (instead of alert), are potential signs that a bird may be sick. If you witness a potentially sick bird at your feeder, once it has fed please clean your feeder thoroughly to minimize contagion to other birds. If you see several sick birds, take down all your feeders for at least a week to give the birds a chance to disperse. Note: Only veterinarians or federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators can legally treat wild birds. If you see a bird that appears to be compromised in some way, perhaps due to sickness or injury, do not try to care for the bird yourself.

Feeders & Houses

Hopper feeders and tube feeders often attract smaller birds while preventing larger species, like grackles, from comfortably perching and monopolizing the feeder. Hopper feeders are often visited by finches, wrens, chickadees, siskins, warblers, redpolls, nuthatches and titmice. Suet cages (and feeders with attached suet cages) attract wrens, chickadees, cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, jays, warblers, and woodpeckers. Nectar feeders naturally attract hummingbirds.

All our bird houses and homes provide a safe nesting spot for America's most popular songbirds. The specific type of bird attracted to them will depend on the region and local habitat, where the house is attached (building, post, living tree, dead tree, etc.), how high the nest is placed, and more. You can visit NestWatch.org and use their "Right Bird, Right House" interactive tool to optimize your bird house placement for specific bird species in your neck of the woods.

Most of our seed feeders are compatible with any seed mix we manufacture. Our hummingbird feeders are exclusively designed for nectar. Additionally, our tube feeders have adjustable feeding ports to allow very small feed (such as thistle and finch blends), while our feeders with attached suet baskets accommodate suet and seed cakes.

You want to place your feeder in a place both that you can easily view, and that visiting birds will feel safe from predators within 10-15 feet of natural cover (and at least 6 feet off the ground). Avoid windy areas, noisier parts of your property, and areas regularly treated with chemicals. To avoid potentially fatal collisions, keep feeders either within 3 feet of, or at least 10 feet away from windows. Placing in an area you can access easily to clean and refill feeders and clean up dropped seed is also a consideration. Lastly, multiple feeders should be placed far enough away from each other to prevent more territorial birds from fighting.

Depending on the type of bird you want to attract in your region and habitat, where the house is attached (building, post, tree, etc.), how high the nest is placed, and more will necessarily change. You can visit NestWatch.org and use their "Right Bird, Right House" interactive tool to optimize your bird house placement for different bird species nesting near you.

Clean your seed feeder about once every two weeks, though more often during times of heavy use or wet weather.

To clean wooden, metal or plastic bird feeders, hand wash with warm water and mild soap. Rinse thoroughly or use a water hose. Allow to air dry completely before refilling and hanging.

If a new feeder is placed near a previous feeding spot familiar to birds, the new feeder may be found in minutes or up to two weeks. If there is no previous history however, the process can take several weeks or months! There are several things you can do to speed up the process: Place the feeder somewhere birds flying by will see it, but also within 10-15 feet of cover (brush pile, tree, etc.) to help birds feel safe. Start with a universally popular feed, such as Black Oil Sunflower Seed to make sure whoever the first visitors are, they will be happy (slowly transition to your preferred feed once the feeder is established). You can also place a little bit of seed nearby (on the top of the feeder, on the ground underneath, on deck railing nearby, etc.) to help catch the notice of new birds. Adding a nearby birdbath (especially with moving water, like a birdbath fountain) can be an incredibly effective way to draw attention to a new feeder. Lastly, monitor the feed levels in the feeder to make sure birds aren't feeding when you weren't around, and keep fresh seed stocked to get off on the right foot.

Squirrels lift the hinged lid of the feeder to access peanuts or squirrel food. The lid is also designed to close easily after entry to keep food dry.

First, remove the screw that keeps the plexiglass in place while squirrels lift the lid to access the squirrel and critter food. Then, simply flip the plexiglass so the cut-out is on the bottom of the feeder and tighten the screw back into its original spot. Lastly, fill the feeder with your favorite bird seed, such as Pennington Ultra Nut & Fruit Blend.

Bully birds are usually larger than most common songbirds, so either utilizing smaller feeders they can't find footing on, or wire-caged feeders that keep larger birds out can be a good tactic. Temporarily switching to feed they don't prefer can also help. For instance, both safflower and nyjer (thistle) seed are disliked by crows, grackles and blackbirds, but enjoyed by cardinals, chickadees and more. Lastly, cast-off seeds below hanging feeders can draw in flocks of bullies. Cleaning up fallen seeds regularly or placing a deep container like a plastic garbage pail beneath a feeder to catch them as they drop can help keep undesirable birds away.

Hummingbirds

Place hummingbird feeders within 10-15 feet from suitable cover (trees, bushes, etc.), in an open enough space for a hummingbird flying through your neighborhood to notice and hover around unimpeded, and high enough off the ground to avoid cats. Hummingbirds are very territorial, so if you have more than one feeder, disperse them far enough apart on your property that they won't fight (and away from any other bird feeders you have). Lastly, choose a feeder location that you can easily access to refill and clean as needed, and enjoy the beautiful view.

First determine how much liquid the feeder holds. You can do this by filling your feeder with water and then emptying into a large measuring cup. Once that amount is established, empty the water and fill the measuring cup to the same spot with nectar. Then carefully pour it into your feeder, screw the lid (which is actually the bottom of the feeder) on tightly and turn it right side up. You should see the nectar start to immediately gargle its way down into the bottom of the feeder. As long as the lid is screwed on tightly and turned right side up quickly, vacuum pressure should prevent dripping. Lastly, wipe off spilled nectar from the feeder before hanging.

We recommend cleaning a hummingbird feeder at least once a week.

First, disassemble the feeder and pour out any excess nectar. Then soak the parts in a tub or large pot with a solution of white vinegar and water (1 gallon water to 4 cups of vinegar) for a minimum of 1 hour. Then scrub the interior of your feeder with a bottle brush if necessary. If soaked for long enough, any residue will come off easily. Next, rinse the feeder under hot tap water completely (until the water runs clear). Lastly, let the feeder air dry completely before reassembling, filling and hanging.

Most of our hummingbird feeders are dishwasher safe (on the top rack only) and are so noted on the product label. However, this method is only recommended for general upkeep. If a rinsed-out feeder has a moldy smell, has accumulated black spots or spoiled nectar, we recommend soaking the disassembled feeder in a vinegar solution (1 gallon water to 4 cups of vinegar) for a minimum of 1 hour, scrubbing with a bottle brush if necessary, then rinsing under a stream of warm or hot water and letting dry before reassembling.

We are able to replace all parts for Pennington hummingbird feeders.

It depends on your climate region. Southern regions of the United States can see migrating hummingbirds as early as mid-February. The central US can see them arrive from mid-March through early April, while the northern US should see them by early May.

This will vary based on the environment the feeder is placed in and the history hummingbirds have feeding there. In a situation where there is little or no nearby tree cover, wild or garden flowers, or previous history of provided nectar, it can take as much as a full season for the feeder to be found. If hummingbirds are already visiting the area to visit flowers, or a neighbor has an established feeder, results can happen within as little as a week. Note: hummingbirds will not drink spoiled nectar, so make sure to change offered nectar every 3-4 days (or sooner, if the nectar is cloudy) to make sure no first visit is the last.

There are several potential causes of nectar dripping from gravity fed feeders. To ensure proper vacuum pressure is formed and maintained, a properly-cleaned and assembled feeder needs to be completely filled and tightly sealed quickly. Additionally, use cool nectar when filling, and hang the feeder in shade or partial shade. The cooler the feeder stays, the less likely it is to drip.

Nectar can attract bees, but a variety of tactics can reduce or eliminate the issue. Make sure your feeder is in shade (bees prefer sunny areas). Moving the feeder a few feet can discourage insects while not confusing hummingbirds. After hanging, clean off nectar residue or spills on the outside of the feeder. If the feeder has yellow pieces, paint them red. Switch to less sweet nectar (5 parts water to 1 part sugar) for a few days. Warning: Never use insecticides on feeders! Additionally, some hummingbird feeders include bee-resistant ports, such as Pennington 32 oz. Decorative Hummingbird Feeder.

One of the most effective ways to keep ants out of hummingbird feeders is to buy and use an ant moat. Additionally, making sure to clean up any spilled nectar below a feeder and moving discovered feeders several feet (to a new branch or tree) is an easy first step that can work. Additionally, some hummingbird feeders include built in ant moats, such as Pennington 32 oz. Decorative Hummingbird Feeder.

The same steps that can keep bees away from your feeder work for wasps as well. If they are yellow jackets (a type of wasp), non-toxic yellow jacket traps can be purchased to reduce the numbers near your feeder.

All hummingbird nectar gradually spoils because the sugar solution will naturally break down over time. Once opened, the hotter the temperature the nectar is subjected to, the more quickly fermentation and spoilage will occur. Refrigeration slows this process.

Several years ago, the FDA banned the use of some food colorants in the USA. The Pennington Nectar formula contains Red Dye FD&C Red No. 40, which is approved for human consumption by the United States Food & Drug Administration. While there isn't any evidence that it is bad for hummingbirds, we recognize that some consumers do have concerns about dye and so offer a clear nectar as well - Pennington ElectroNectar.

While hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, the freshness and quality of the nectar are what get hummingbirds to drink. While we recommend hanging hummingbird feeders that feature red pieces and accents to catch their attention, red nectar isn’t necessary.

Pennington ElectroNectar has added electrolytes to help keep the hummingbirds healthy and hydrated.

Nectar typically lasts between 5-7 days in temperate Spring or Fall weather, or 3-4 days in hot Summer weather. Direct sunlight exposure (or any other factor than can heat the nectar) can shorten those amounts drastically, so make sure to dispose of nectar that is cloudy or contains floating material (white or black blobs), and scrub the feeder with a bottle brush until clean before refilling.

Never opened ElectroNectar can last up to 6 months. Freshly opened containers can last up to 2 weeks in a refrigerator.