Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bird Feeding

We have started feeding the birds for the winter. We were starting to get worried since it's gotten so cold quickly this year, we figured starting sooner than later was for the best.

This year we got smart. Do you know how expensive bird seed has gotten? Don't buy bags of mixed birdseed. They contain a lot of filler, such as red millet. Most birds won't eat it. It gets kicked onto the ground, where stays until it rots. (Look around the base of your bird feeder come Spring, you'll see what I mean.) Mixed birdseed is not a bargain. Buy the seeds you know your birds want.

To maximize the number of species that visit our feeders, we offer a variety of food. And offer it at different heights. We have feeding stations on fence posts, on the pole that holds a very tall bird feeder and DH has mounted old satellite dishes on poles. We can see the bird feeding station from any window on the back side of the house and from the back breezeway mud room.

Most birds that stay in cold regions in winter eat seeds. They have to. Insects are hard to find in freezing weather. Here is a selection of seeds that attract a wide variety of birds;

The over all favorite is sunflower seeds. It attracts cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. It's good to put most of your sunflower seeds in hanging feeders. It's safer from squirrels and raccoons that way. For the past two days we starting seeing our first cardinal... it was Mr. Cardinal... didn't see the Mrs. until the following day. What a joy to see those two.

Get black sunflower seeds, sometimes called oil seeds, rather than the grey-and-white-striped sunflower seeds sold for people to eat. They're higher in oil content, softer shelled, and cheaper.

Nyger has replaced thistle as the most popular seeds to feed goldfinches. Goldfinches adore nyger. Dozens of goldfinches will be visiting your nyger feeder at once, which is quite a sight on a winter day. Niger is a black seed, so tiny and light you can blow away a handful with a gentle breath. Niger is also expensive, over a dollar a pound! We don't want to waste this precious seed. We bought a hanging tube with tiny holes, designed especially for nyger.

Safflower is a white seed, slightly smaller than black sunflower seed. Chickadees, titmice, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers eat it.

The great thing about safflower seeds is that squirrels don't like them! (We have one grey and one black squirrel who have started visiting the bird feeding area... DH got out his slingshot to scare them away.) Neither do grackles, blue jays, or starlings. I bit into a safflower seed myself once and bout gagged me!

You can buy seeds at feed stores, nurseries, supermarkets, and some hardware stores. I buy everything except the costly nyger in 25-pound bags and store them in the back breezeway in a huge trash can.

Oh and once you start feeding the birds, don't stop till Spring. Some birds may become somewhat dependent on your feeder for food, especially some migrants that might have traveled farther on to a more dependable food supply. By feeding birds, you are also concentrating many of them in a small area. If you suddenly stop feeding, the birds will have to look for natural food sources which may result in overtaxing the available supplies in that area. Hungry birds will move on in search of food and it may take some time to lure other birds to your feeder. Keep your feeder filled at all times.

Happy birdwatching!

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