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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: chris316 on May 11, 2017, 09:10:51 PM

Title: Birding on a Budget
Post by: chris316 on May 11, 2017, 09:10:51 PM
I've just set up a bird station with a feeder and a birdbath. It's fun in my downtime to sit on the patio and watch the different birds come and go... however with this said, once the birds know about the spot the seeds and feed diminish quickly... with about $0.50/lb for good bird food on sale and much more for higher quality seed (the better the quality the more variety of birds you'll get to stop, or so I've been told) you could find yourself forking out a lot for birds...

Does anybody have any advice to help with this? 
How much should one spend?
Should I give it up and find a new hobby?
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: Khaetra on May 12, 2017, 05:24:02 AM
I spend a lot on birdseed (a face-punch worthy amount), but it's one of my hobbies so I file the expense under my entertainment category, along with gas/drinks/food when I head out in the fields :).
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: Cranky on May 12, 2017, 05:47:51 AM
Birds will eat however much seed you put out, so don't put out too many feeders. LOL

We buy our staggeringly expensive bird seed at Wild Birds Unlimited, and they have a big sale every fall - you can buy the seed then and pick it up as you need it.
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: GreenSheep on May 12, 2017, 07:45:59 AM
Thank you for posting this! In my 20s, I used to think of bird-watching as an "old people hobby," but I guess at 37, I'm now officially old, because I find birds fun to watch!

I want to set up a bird feeder after I get settled in my new home (in Washington state), but I was also thinking about the potential cost of bird seed. Maybe there are particular plants/trees that would also attract them? Obviously this would vary by region.

Are there any great online (free) sources for bird identification (by appearance or sound)? I'm sure Google would reveal a million, but I'm wondering what people actually use and like. As a kid in Virginia, my dad used to point out the birds at our feeder for me and tell me what each of them was. There are a lot of birds in Washington that I'm unfamiliar with, and I'd like to change that, but obviously the Dad method isn't going to work there!

(Am I the only one who has a sense of nostalgia connected to bird sounds? I never would have guessed it, but when I was back in Virginia visiting my parents last week, it was nice to hear so many familiar birds! I hadn't been there in the spring for years, so I hadn't heard them for years. I grew up only knowing them by sight, but last week there was one sound I was trying to identify, so I ended up listening to the songs of a lot of other birds online, and now it's really neat to be able to sit on the porch and think, "Hey, that's a cardinal!" "And that's a bluebird!")
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: Khaetra on May 12, 2017, 08:54:41 AM
Audubon has some good resources and if you have a cellphone both Merlin and Audubon Birds are good apps to have.  I am addicted to Cornell Lab's Bird Cams (especially the Hummers!) and they have links on birdwatching:
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: Cranky on May 12, 2017, 11:55:47 AM
There are lots of plants that birds like - I plant a million sunflowers every year because the goldfinches go crazy!

If you really want to be a "birder" there will be organized groups in your area. There are Audubon sponsored walks in my area, and I've been on a few. I actually don't care so much about keeping a life list; I just like watching the birds in my yard.
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: JoJo on May 12, 2017, 12:16:25 PM
There are some awesome bald eagle cams on the internet.  That keeps my retired aunt & uncle busy for hours.
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: SunshineAZ on May 12, 2017, 12:43:09 PM
I have the good fortune to live in one of the best hummingbird and general bird watching areas in the US (SE Arizona).  I put out bird seed and have hummingbird feeders up year round, and in spring and summer I also put out grape jelly (Orioles), and other fruit (grapes, watermelons, oranges, etc.).  I watch for sales on bird seed, and there is a web site (Mills Fleet Farm) that has a really good sale on the large seed blocks once or twice a year, and most of the fruit I put out is also what is on special at the grocery store.  For the hummingbirds, fall and winter I only have up a few feeders, so the cost is minimal, but in the summer (June-September) I go through over a gallon of nectar (homemade) a day, so I buy a lot of sugar.  We spend a lot of time on our back patio watching the birds, so it is entertainment for us.  And my hobby is taking hummingbird photos, so I do splurge on them and have around 10 feeders for them in the summer.

If I wanted to, I could spend a lot more $$$ on the birdseed, suet blocks and bird "cakes", but I have a set number of non-hummingbird feeders and I don't buy the expensive peanut logs, etc.  (I know some people who spend a fortune on their birding habit.) 
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: Roots&Wings on May 13, 2017, 07:55:22 AM
Also have a hummingbird feeder and enjoy watching their antics! Sugar is fairly inexpensive for homemade nectar.
Title: Re: Birding on a Budget
Post by: Spruit on May 13, 2017, 05:01:42 PM
Honestly folks, I interpreted the title in a totally different way. Bird food is peanuts (pun intended) compared to the literally thousands of bucks my SO spends on birding gear like Swarovski binoculars and telescope etc. Sure, it's quality gear and should last a lifetime, but still... I figure buying "just" bird seed would be a hell of a lot cheaper as a means to enjoy birding.

For plants that attract birds I recommend sun flowers, teasel (at least in Europe, but anything that's large and thistle-like in North America) and berry bearing bushes (elderberry, dogwood, sumac, Viburnum etc.). Some heaps of wood/branches and stacked terracotta pots are good places for insects to hide, so these attract insect eaters such as wrens.