Bird Feeding with George Petrides
Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.
The small, heavily streaked Pine Siskin is often irruptive in winter, and can be seen over large parts of the U.S. where it comes to bird feeders, especially for thistle seed. Some of these traveling Pine Siskins can remain to breed, even in areas far from the normal breeding range of the species.
Photograph © Glenn Bartley.
Pine Siskins usually breed in small colonies, although each pair still defends a small area around their nest. Most of their breeding range is outside that of the Brown-headed Cowbird, so there is little opportunity for nest parasitism, although where the two species do overlap, significant parasitism has been observed. Siskins usually abandon cowbird chicks before they fledge.
As bird feeding starts to reach its peak its time to consider some steps to ensure safe feeding..
- Keep feeders clean and replace seeds anytime it becomes caked or mold/mildew is spotted. Many tube feeder designs now have removable tops and bottom for easy cleaning.
- Rake seed hulls under feeders or use a screen under the feeder to capture the hulls and dropped seeds. Seeds can also be purchased without the hulls, which greatly reduces this problem.
- Window strikes kill millions of birds each year. Locate feeders over 20 ft. or less then 3 ft. from windows. There are also several commercial products - such as decals of spider webs - that make the windows visible to the birds. (Some organizations say 10 feet is far enough away, while others say 30 feet is required.)
Many garage doors have a cord with a red handle for lowering the door. When the door is up, the red handle will sometimes draw a hummingbird into the garage, where it can have a difficult time escaping. Paint the handle black or cover it in black tape to prevent this problem.
If a hummingbird does get trapped in your garage, try closing the door and turning off the light. Hummingbirds do not like to fly in the dark and can sometimes easily be picked up and taken outside. Hold the hummer gently, open your hand slowly and give the hummer a chance to orient itself before it again takes to the air.
Have you ever put up a wonderful new bird feeder, then wondered why your birds did not immediately flock to it? The answer may be simple – they didn’t know it was there!
Birds are visual and auditory creatures. Except for a few species, most find food by sight. If a feeder is the first one in your yard, it make take the birds weeks to discover and recognize it as a source of food. If you’ve added a new feeder where other feeders are already available, it generally won’t take long for your birds to discover this new opportunity, although there may still be a period of time when the birds hesitate to use the new feeder instead of the old.
How soon your feeder is used also depends on the availability of natural food sources, the type seed used in your new feeder, and the habitat close to your feeder. Black-oil sunflower seeds usually attract the widest variety of birds. The addition of nutmeats, such as peanut kernels, will make the feeder more attractive to birds such as titmice, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, even wrens. Make certain that the feeder is visible and not hidden by foliage or other obstructions. If you live in a newly developed neighborhood with few trees and shrubs, consider planting some plants near your feeder to provide natural cover. A bird bath or other water source will also make your feeding station more attractive to your birds.
The first visitors to your new feeder are likely to be chickadees, since these little acrobats are among the most curious and adventuresome of all backyard birds. Once chickadees have found it, titmice and other birds are sure to be close behind.
February can be one of the toughest winter months for birds as remaining wild seed and other food supplies continue to diminish. If you have feeders up its a good time to make sure they stay filled. Here are a few comments from the National Bird-Feeding Society on perhaps why so many people enjoy feeding and watching birds.
Keep the peace - Avoid overcrowding by putting feeders at different heights to resemble birds' natural feeding environment. Serve sparrows, juncos and mourning doves from a tray elevated just above the ground. Woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, finches and redpolls, accustomed to eating among trees in the wild, prefer feeders four to six feet off the ground. Jays and cardinals like surfaces large enough to stand on while they eat.