Fall is the traditional beginning of the classic start for the yearlong season of bird feeding. More people feed birds than watch football, baseball or any other sport, or participate in any other outdoor activity. That’s right — bird feeding is in. More than 65 million Americans are doing it, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bird feeding is “in” and it’s easy to see why. Attracting birds to your back yard is a relatively low-cost way to relax, enjoy nature and beautify your winter surroundings. And people of virtually all ages and levels of physical ability can do it.
The majority of North American birds suffer from loss of habitat. Investment in avian habitat will return valuable dividends for birds and tons of back yard enjoyment for us. Now, as a new season is just beginning, it’s a perfect time to get started.
To attract the widest variety of birds, landscape your property with plants that offer birds cover and natural foods and always provide a source of water.
Need for feeders
When the ground is covered with snow and ice, it’s hard to resist just tossing seed out the door. But it’s healthier for the birds to get their “hand-outs” at a feeding station, off the ground. Food that sits on the ground for even a short time is exposed to potential contamination by dampness, mold, bacteria, animal droppings, lawn fertilizers and pesticides.
Sometimes it can seem like forever before birds notice a new feeder. Be patient and they will eventually come. And remember, if you fill your feeder only after it’s been empty for a while, the birds will look for food elsewhere. They’ll return as long as you continue to fill it.
There are a multitude of feeders out there to choose from. Check out Web sites like www.BirdWatcherSupply.com for some good choices.
Winter feed and seed:
food for fat
Winter weather is hard on birds. Their calorie requirements increase, food becomes hard to find, snow covers up seeds, and ice storms seal away the tree buds and wild fruits. Tiny birds must eat one-third to three-quarters of their weight each day. When the temperature dips below zero, easy meals at a feeder can mean the difference between life and death.
It’s important to stock your feeder with high-quality foods that will provide birds with the most fat, nutrients and energy. Look for a feed that is nutritious, preserves freshness, and gives you the most feed for your dollar. For instance Cole’s Oil Sunflower is over 99 percent pure and is cleaned more than four times to ensure there are more seeds and fewer sticks in each bag. The feed is also nitrogen-purge packaged, just like potato chips, to ensure freshness and insect-free feed.
Birds love suet. It’s the solid fat rendered from beef, venison, or vegetables that provides concentrated energy to help birds make it through freezing winter days and nights.
Look for suet cakes formulated to attract the largest variety and number of wild birds as well as specific bird species. A feeder product infused with habanero chili pepper — a patented technology researched and approved by scientists from Cornell — keeps squirrels away. Birds love it and squirrels hate it, finally solving the age-old problem of squirrels at your feeder.
To cater to seed-loving birds, try Cole’s Nutberry Suet Blend or a similar product, one that blends a mix of premium human-grade cherries, apples and blueberry-flavored cranberries, preferred nuts, nutritious insect suet kibbles, and whole kernel sunflower meats. It appeals to both fruit- and insect-loving songbirds.
Birds, like humans, do have food preferences. Feed them what they like and they’ll keep coming back for more.
The back yard can seem barren and bleak when the leaves fall off the trees and the last blooming plant retires until spring. But there’s an easy way to brighten your back yard and fill it with color and song this winter: charm songbirds looking for an easy, reliable food source.
Birds are the most accessible and abundant of wild creatures that live among us, and every home can offer them a safe way station to refuel. To attract the greatest number of birds, choose feeders and foods that suit a variety of wild bird species.
Don’t wait until the snow flies to get feeders in place. Fall is a good time to choose a location visible from your favorite window, to secure feeders with sturdy brackets, poles or hangers and to arrange convenient storage for your seed and supplies.
New birdwatchers may be bewildered by the huge assortment of feeders available today. A good place to start shopping is a Web site like www.SongbirdEssentials.com, which can direct you to a nearby retailer or online source.
Feeders come in many sizes and styles, and fall into a few broad categories. The three feeders every backyard bird lover should have include a tube feeder to hold sunflower or nutmeats; a hopper feeder for mixed seed and a suet holder to attract woodpeckers and other tree trunk “clingers.”
Tube feeders can be made of clear plastic or wire mesh. They’re sized to hold peanut kernels, sunflower or nyger seed for finches. Experts recommend filling tubes with just one type of seed so birds don’t rummage through the contents in search of their favorite treats. Songbird Essential’s Seed Hoop, or a similar product, is a useful accessory to keep feeding areas tidy. The mesh tray attaches below feeders and catches 90 percent of spilled seed, keeping it off the ground and away from rodents. The hoop also serves as a platform feeder for cardinals, buntings and juncos.
Spiral Feeders offer three worthwhile innovations: a continuous spiral perch that allows more birds to feed at once, a locking lid to foil squirrels and a twist-off bottom for easy cleaning. A squirrel-proof wire mesh model is ideal for shelled sunflower or peanut hearts. Another Songbird Essentials feeder innovation is their “Clingers Only” feeder to primarily serve smaller avian guests like chickadees, small woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches and others.
Suet is a high-energy fuel that helps birds survive cold winters. Tail Prop Suet Feeders attract the larger red-bellied and redheaded woodpeckers with support for their stiff tails, as well as the smaller and more common downy woodpeckers and nuthatches. Pre-formed suet cakes sized to fit feeders can include seeds, fruit or nuts for extra energy and appeal.
Position feeders near the protective cover of trees and shrubs to offer feathered friends shelter from predators. A small metal trash can with a tight lid is handy for storing seed nearby and a scoop makes refills quick and easy.
Once feeders are up, the wait for the first bird can make even patient people antsy. Experts suggest sprinkling some seed in a shiny pie plate set under feeders. When curious birds come to investigate, they’ll find your feeders, too.
For more information on feeders and other bird necessities visit www.songbirdessentials.com.
For more information on Cole’s Feed visit www.coleswildbird.com.
Courtesy of ARAcontent
Project FeederWatch begins Nov. 14 and runs through early April. To learn more and to sign up, visit www.feederwatch.org