Gardening Articles: Health :: Garden Crafts

Welcoming Winter Birds (page 2 of 3)

by Dan Hickey

Which Type of Food?

Seeds. Stores that sell bird-feeding supplies usually stock several different kinds of seed and seed mixes. I don't recommend commercial seed mixes because they include ingredients that many birds find unappetizing (corn, milo, red millet, wheat, and canary seed, for example) and seeds (white proso millet) that only ground-feeding birds prefer. Sure, seed mixes look good to us wingless folk, but you only have to observe a finicky blue jay tossing unwanted seeds to the ground to learn otherwise. Use one seed type per feeder, especially black oil sunflower to attract several species.

Peanut Products. Peanut hearts -- the embryo from the center of peanuts -- shouldn't be confused with peanut kernels, the meat of the peanut. You'll find kernels as either small bits or whole unprocessed peanuts. Most peanut-eating birds prefer kernels.

Suet. Many birds enjoy suet in the winter. If you want to attract woodpeckers, hang a suet cage from the trunk of a nearby tree. Chickadees, nuthatches, and blue jays will happily join them. Suet quality varies. Your best bet is to buy peanut or almond suet.

Habitat

The most important influence on the number and varieties of birds you attract is your garden's landscape. Large and small trees, bushes, fallen branches and trees, tall grass, brush piles, and water add up to an inviting habitat. Generally, locate your feeders near a mix of vegetation. Ground-feeding birds like thickets, brush piles, rock piles, fallen trees and branches, and tall grasses. Birds who feed above 4 feet will inhabit areas with small trees and shrubs.

Water, Squirrels, and Cleaning

During the winter, especially in the North, a fresh water supply will attract birds -- even some birds that aren't ordinarily attracted to feeders. If temperatures in your area dip below freezing, provide a heated water station filled with clean water. You can find heated birdbaths or immersion heaters at your local hardware or wildlife-supply store.

Hungry squirrels can jump straight up about 5 feet. They'll wreak havoc at your feeders. Not only will squirrels deter birds, they may permanently damage your feeders. If squirrels live around your house, use a baffle. I hang feeders from a post surrounded by 4-inch-diameter PVC piping, an effective and economical baffle.

To keep feeders working properly, clean them periodically. If you place feeders in a sheltered, dry location, you won't have to clean them very often. Wet feeders, however, tend to clog up. Remember: A well-maintained feeder is more attractive to birds.

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