Although no bird-feeding historian was on hand to document it, it is not hard to imagine the first occurrence of a human casting a few morsels of food on the ground to entice a bird a little closer. It is also not hard to imagine that the pleasure derived from that interaction prompted the human to do it again and to attract more birds and a wider variety of birds.
Modern bird feeders have discovered the advantages of selective feeding- specialized feeders with specialized food presented in a specific feeding zone- to attract the widest variety of birds. But don’t forget about ground feeding strategy for the cooler weather ahead.
While ground feeders may be just one step above throwing a few crumbs on the ground, this most basic bird feeder design offers several advantages. Generally consisting of an open tray with a mesh bottom for drainage and short legs to keep them above wet or snow-covered ground, ground feeders are east to fill, accommodate a wide variety of different foods, and are attractive to more species of backyard wildlife than any other design. while sunflower and sunflower-rich mixes are always highly prized, ground feeders can also be used to offer cracked corn and millet mixes, critter mixes, or even suet pellets or cakes.
When you think of ground-feeding birds, cardinals come first to mind. Finicky about landing space, cardinals will readily land and feed on the wide platform offered by these feeders. Next in line are the Juncos, our winter-only snowbird. Juncos feed almost exclusively at ground level and are particularly fond of the white proso millet in mixes. You can also expect doves, several species of sparrows, and, depending on your backyard habitat some more traditional feeder birds to visit your ground feeder, plus some not quite so traditional including waterfowl, pheasants, and even wild turkeys! Add a few woodland mammals such as squirrels and rabbits and you can experience the pleasure of ground feeding first discovered by that long-lost relative.