Monday, December 8, 2008

Winter bird watching

Snow is blanketing much of the country by now, and threatening most of the rest of us. Just because the summer birds have headed for warmer climes, and your gardening projects are mostly put on hold for the winter, doesn't mean you won't find plenty of interesting things going on in the garden. Backyard birding is a year-round prospect. Even if you live in an apartment building, a feeder could be placed outside a window.

If you have one window you look out often throughout the year, it's the perfect place to put a bird feeder. There are some tips to making the most of your bird-watching time.
Put feeders at different levels and offer a variety of treats. This will draw different types of birds to your yard. It can take a couple of weeks for the birds to find your feeders, so keep them full and be patient. Once they learn your feeders are a reliable source of food, they'll keep coming back even in the worst weather.

Most feeders should be hung at least six feet from the ground from a pole, and six or more feet from anything a squirrel can jump from to keep the feed just for the birds.

Black Oil sunflower seeds (the type that all are black, unlike the white and gray striped kinds sold for humans) attract many types of birds, but should be hung from a tree or post to discourage raccoons and squirrels. It attracts cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Goldfinches are drawn to Nyger, which is a fine seed. It's also about a dollar a pound, so it's best to put it in a tube feeder made specifically for Nyger. This should also be hung and can even be hung under the eves.

Safflower seeds are white and a bit smaller than a sunflower seed. It attracts several types of birds, but squirrels don't like it.

White millet is best sptread on the ground for sparrows, juncos, and mourning doves. It's the least expensive type of bird feed and can be purchased everywhere from the grocery store to hardware stores.

Then there's suet which is rendered beef or venison fat and can be purchased at most grocery stores. This should be hung to keep it away from mammals and attracts wood peckers. It provides lots of energy to keep birds warm through the winter cold.

There are lots of bird feed recipes out there as well using fats from your kitchen, peanut butter, various seeds and grains. Some great ones are posted by Mother Earth News, or do an Internet search for other recipes.

Mixed bird seed can be a bad deal. I know the type I bought last spring had lots of red millet in it, which the birds totally ignored. It's best to buy the specific types of seed your birds will want.

Also, don't forget the water--something that can be in low supply in the winter cold. There are bird baths or bird bath heaters available out there for purchase that keep the water from freezing, or you can refill your feeders often.

Return to the Neighborhood.

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1 comment:

Danyelle Ferguson said...

What? You have snow? Send some of it out here!!!! :) Thanks for the tips on winter birds.