Celebrating the Seasons

From March 2008 E-newsletter

Spring is for Lovers — Including Bird Lovers

The effects of spring occur beyond the garden, too. Love is in the air, with the birds searching everywhere! Male birds will shed their dreary, muddy-colored feathers in favor of new, more brilliant colors for spring and summer — all the better to capture the attention of a female. After all, what better way is there to impress the females than with colorful plumage? The bright colors also warn other males or suitors to keep their distance. By nature's design, female birds are less colorful, allowing them to hide from predators and protect the nests.

While it is best for birds to get their food naturally from the wild, it's fun to be a voyeur by attracting these lovers to your feeders. To get a front row seat on this love story, offer a smorgasbord of food that appeals to the birds in your neighborhood.

Variety is key to attracting a wide range of birds. If you can offer just one type of seed, make it black-oil sunflower seed, which has the highest meat-to-shell ratio, is high in fat, and is easy for birds to open. If possible, offer more than one type of food. Check with your local bird store for tips on the best menu for birds in your location.

Cluster your feeders. Birds are attracted to a variety of offerings, so your feeder "tree" should have at least four feeders with different foods. Make sure the feeders are at least eight feet below tree branches or any other overhang, and four to six feet above the ground. This placement will minimize problems with squirrels and cats.

It makes sense to place feeders where you can see them, but be sure they are also close to bushes and trees so birds can flee to safety. Small birds, such as finches and warblers, are intimidated by larger birds and tend to dine in greater numbers, so set up separate feeders just for them.

Birds need water, too, so set up a birdbath nearby. Be sure to keep it filled and change the water every few days.

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