Feeding the Birds!

A red cardinal (photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Winter is coming soon to the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s time to think about feeding birds in your area. Autumn will naturally offer flower and grass seeds and other goodies for the birds as Mother Nature gets ready for the winter season. Migratory birds will stop by your yard on their way to warmer climates such as the cedar waxwing flock that stops by my place each fall. Some birds will remain in your area year-round. It pays to have some additional food available for your bird visitors other than what they are finding in the landscape on their own. I hope by reading this posting that you will learn more about how to feed the birds. Feeding the birds is a fun hobby and also a nice way to thank nature for our enjoyment of her bounty.

You can be sure that your bird friends are satiated with bird seed or suet. Many seed mixes are available through your local wild bird specialty store or even the big box stores. I’ve seen countless different combinations of berries, nuts, peanut butter, and suet to please your bird population. You can even purchase a waste-free bird seed mix for minimal cleanup on your part! Cardinals love sunflower seeds. Woodpeckers think peanuts are quite a treat! And finches like to eat thistle seed. Find out what kinds of birds you have, and select a good mix. The National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America is a great reference for those who live on this continent!

There are many types of bird feeders. Different birds prefer to eat seed in different ways. For example, the perching birds will eat at a perching-style bird feeder. Yet the ground feeding birds such as mourning dove or juncos will prefer to eat at an open platform bird feeder. You can hang a bird feeder from a tree or install it on top of a pole. And please ensure that you clean out your bird feeder several times each year. Use soap and warm water for cleaning. Moldy seed isn’t good for the birds so throw it out. Feeding the birds requires some minimal bird feeder maintenance on your part.

It’s interesting what bird seed will attract to your yard — and not just the birds. Raccoons, squirrels, and skunks love to eat a feast of bird seed. Mice will carry away more seed than you can imagine. Use a raccoon baffle or squirrel baffle mounted on the bird feeder’s pole to help protect the seed from most critters. Yet I’ve still seen a mouse jump 10 feet off the ground and onto my squirrel-proof bird feeder, fill itself up on seed, and jump back down to scurry away to its hiding place in our gas BBQ grill. (Mice are apparently not very bright as they continue to build their nests directly on top of the gas grill burners. Grilled mouse will never be on MY menu!)

Keep your bird seed supply outside of your house in a protected area or inside your shed in a metal pail with a locking lid. Squirrels and mice can chew through plastic containers with ease. And storing birdseed inside your house or garage will only attract the wrong critters to move inside for the winter near their new foodsource.

Grackles, starlings, and other less desirable birds can raid feeders. There isn’t much you can do to keep them out, other than shooing them away yourself.

Hummingbird at Feeder (courtesy Google Images)

Remember your hummingbird friends! Most of them will fly further South for the winter. Keep a handy supply of nectar and a special hummingbird feeder on hand for their visits. And be sure that you keep the hummingbird feeder as clean as possible.

Have a nice basin of water, either a bird bath or such, so your bird buddies can take a bath and have a drink. Water is just as important as food to the birds, especially on those frozen winter days. Get a bird bath de-icer and try to change the water often so that your bird friends will always have a fresh unfrozen water source.

What’s YOUR favorite way to feed the birds?

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