Keeping the Birds to Keep You Sane
One of the great things about the winter is watching all the birds carry on at your feeders. This is
also a good way to bide your time waiting for the snow to come, go and melt. Many of the birds are
ones that have been paroozing your garden all year and others may be new to the area looking for
a more reliable meal ticket. In any case does it really matter? Whether you use feeders, the ground,
seed heads from your perennials, sheltering shrubs or water, all of it is greatly appreciated by our
feathered friends. With the winters being so unpredictable in our northern region, snowfall amounts
can make it nearly impossible for them to forage for themselves. Feeding the birds is not a chore
but an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Birds will inhabit an area as long as it provides them reliable food, water and protection. Most birds
will doa circuit around neighboring feeders to ensure an available meal if one feeder goes empty for
a day or twobut like to stay in the area. This is the basics to bird feeding for those of you new to the
whole thing. Theyneed what we need. Dehydration is a common ailment for birds in the winter. We
tend to forget that all their normal watering holes are frozen solid. Although they are able to get
some water from eating snow, it is far too time and energy consuming to eat enough to compensate
for their amount of activity. Putting out water on a regular basis will help in keeping them hydrated.
This is more of a task than feeding becausethe water freezes quickly and needs to be refreshed
often. There are bird baths available now that keep water unfrozen by plugging them in to your
outside outlet. These have gotten more affordable in recent years and are a real time saver.
Shelter is another important factor to keep in mind when planning where to put your feeder. Birds will not feed
if there is no place for them to seek refuge from predators. Evergreens are a great cover. Cedars, pyramidal
junipers, hemlocks and spruces are great for tiny birds to hide and stay up out of reach of cats. Bird houses
are good if there are no evergreens. Leaving tall perennials such as ornamental grasses and patches of
Echinacea will also provide food along with shelter from wind and foes. It really doesn't take much to
accommodate these little guys and doing so will help attract many species.
The most important and coincidently the most enjoyable task is feeding. You can start from the ground up if
you like. No...literally, start right from the ground by scattering a few seeds right on the ground! When you first
start feeding the birds, you need to be a little bit patience. It may take some time for them to realize that there
is a new food source, but eventually they will come. You can then set up as many different feeders as you like.
Once one kind starts, it doesn't take long for it to spread through the grapevine and get everyone's undivided
attention. The only thing to keep watch for when feeding is squirrels and for mould developing on seeds.
Squirrels are easy to deter by selecting undesirable seeds, tiny feeders that they can't fit or balance on, or
baffles (coned-shaped barriers).
Mould is easy to avoid by having covered feeders and making sure that there is no snow or ice in the feeder
when re-filling. It is recommended that every few weeks you wash your feeders out with 2 oz. of bleach to 2
gallons of water to ensure mould spores are eliminated. This will reduce the risk of the birds getting sick or
passing on disease.
Here are a few favorites to fill your feeders with:
BLACK SUNFLOWER SEED: All birds love this rich oil seed that keeps weight on their bones and are quite easy to open compared to striped seeds.
NIGER: Goldfinches love this tiny black seed. Although pricier than other seeds and requiring a special feeder, it is worth seeing dozens of them all taking turns in their organized chaos.
SAFFLOWER SEED: Great for keeping squirrels at bay because they can't stand the smell or taste of them. Just mix it in to your other seeds and relax...squirrel free! Cardinals, Chickadees and woodpeckers love this tan colored seed.
WHITE MILLET: Just scatter it around for those who prefer to feed from the ground such as Sparrows and Mourning Doves.
SUET: High quality animal fat for birds that would normally eat worms or insects.
FRUITS: Raisins, bananas, apple and melon seeds are a rare treat for your little friends if you feel like being a real hero.
DO NOT BUY MIXED BAGS BECAUSE THEY CONTAIN RED MILLET WHICH VERY FEW BIRDS LIKE. It is
a waste of money because you buy seed by weight and it is used mainly as filler. Only buy seed that you know
your birds like.