Feed the Birds! Fine Dining Recipes for Feathered Friends

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After posting a recent feature of ours, Portage Park News for Racers, Birders, Trail Lovers, we received some great comments about feeding birds. One counted seven different birds just that day in her yard. Another said, “We have 4 feeders and they are ALWAYS full….” One of our Facebook fans, Norma B., answered our question, “Do you feed the birds in winter?” with a resounding, “Yes, yes, yes! I’ve even made bark butter and the speckled black birds were crazy over it!” That, of course, led our social media director, Stacey, who happens to love birds, on a mission to find out all she could about this recipe!

Stacey: What is bark butter? Please do tell!

Norma shares the recipe:

Bark Butter

  • 2 cups lard
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups unsalted sunflower seeds or mixed bird seed (Optional)
  • 1 tsp honey

Mix with a mixer, the cornmeal helps the peanut butter to not be so sticky. I don’t put seed in mine either. You can half this as well. Just smear it on the trees and sit back and watch the fun. I put some on the newel post of the porch railing as well. The little birds don’t seem very interested but the big birds love it and clean it right up!

Stacey: Do you put it in a container? Or spread it on something?

Norma: The first time I put it out, it took a very cold and snowy day before the birds were interested!

You spread it on the bark of the tree. I also plopped some on the porch railing.

A very happy Stacey: I will have to try that sometime. Thanks for the suggestion. Maybe we will add your recipe onto our site!

And here you are Norma! Thank you very much!

In addition, we are including other ‘appetizers’ and ‘entrees’ made especially for our feathered friends you may enjoy putting out.


Sweet Beak

Oriole feeding on oranges
(photo credit – Deep Roots at home)

To attract Orioles, place half of an orange or a dish with jelly on a deck railing, or in your platform feeder. You may want to nail the orange down to a tree or deck railing so it does not wobble when the birds perch on it. You can  also poke a hole in the orange and place it over a small tree branch. Or place the orange halves inside a suet cage. Special feeders are sold that can hold the orange and some jelly as well.


Place peanuts (in or out of the shell) along your deck railing and wait for the blue jays to come in and scoop them up.

Sunny Side Up

Plant seed producing sunflowers in the spring and the birds will come eat the seeds out of the flower heads in the fall. (I had birds long after frost visiting my sunflowers. And I have loads of seeds for planting in the spring which I intend to use as I expand my ‘Sunflower Cafe!’)


These will take a few minutes of time (like 5!) but are a great way to get kids involved and will attract birds that will not land on a rail, preferring treetop dining experiences instead!

Swingin’ PBB Delight

Bagel Feeder

Do you have stale bagels? Cover them with peanut butter and then cover that with bird seed. Run a string through the middle of the bagel and hang it from a tree. PBB (peanut butter bagel)

Avian Gorp

This will attract dark-eyed Juncos, though other birds will enjoy it as well.

Ingredients: peanut Butter, mixed bird seed, chopped nuts, rolled oats, cracked corn and/or oatmeal

Tupperware-like sandwich holder for use as feeder dish

1. Using a small bowl, add enough peanut butter so that it would fill approximately 1/2 of your feeder dish. Then add 1/2 of the remaining ingredients, mixing well.

2. Using a small plate, spread out a thin layer of the remaining 1/2 of the dry ingredients.

3. Scoop out a handful of peanut butter mix and form into a ball. Roll the ball over the seed mixture on the plate, giving it a good coating. Then press the entire ball into your sandwich dish. From here you can take it outside or place in the freezer.

Some of these birds are only around during certain seasons. You can learn more about most species of native birds here.

Extra Tips

Seasonal suggestions:

  • Spring feeding: offer fruit, baked and crushed eggshells, and nesting materials, such as human hair, pet fur, bits of string or yarn, and small strips of cloth to help nesting birds. You can put nesting items into a mesh bag and hang them from a tree.
  • Summer feeding: Hummingbirds do NOT need red dye in feeders. The red on the feeder itself is enough to attract them. By providing seed in the summer, you are helping birds with young find easier access to food when populations are at a peak and it may be difficult to find nearby food. Perhaps they built a nest in a particular location because you had been a food source they were counting on!
  • Autumn feeding: offer millet, peanuts, peanut butter, and suet cakes

Are any human foods UNSAFE to feed birds?

Yes. Birds should not be offered many of the foods humans eat.

  • Bread: fresh or stale, provides no real nutritional value for birds; moldy bread can harm birds.
  • Chocolate: toxic to birds, just as it is to dogs and cats (it contains theobromine); never offer birds any foods containing chocolate.
  • Table scraps: some may not be safe or healthy for birds; most table scraps will eventually attract mice or rats.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak
Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Height Matters

Many birds will feed at more than one level, but some species have preferences.

  • Ground level: mourning doves, sparrows, towhees, and juncos.
  • Table level: cardinals, finches, and jays.
  • Hanging feeders: titmice, goldfinches, and chickadees.
  • Tree trunks: woodpeckers, nuthatches, and wrens.

We would love to hear about your bird feeding adventures! If you have a story you’d like to share, please send it to [email protected]. If you have a food suggestion or short comment, please leave it below.

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