Bird Feeding with George Petrides
Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.
Sharing ideas and topics related to feeding and attracting wild birds in your backyard.
Both Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks are found throughout most of North America and often visit our yards in search of a warm meal.
Both species are frustratingly similar in appearance. Both birds have slate-grey backs and barred rust-colored chests with long banded tails and relatively short rounded wings. The major discernible difference between them is size. A “Sharpie” is a little larger than a robin; a “Coop” is about the size of a crow. To further complicate matters, in each species the female is notably larger than the male. Thus, a female Sharp-shinned Hawk can be as nearly as large as a small male Cooper’s Hawk.
The most reliable field mark may be the tail, which is rounder in the Cooper’s (think “oo” as in Cooper) and squared off (think “s” for Sharp-shinned and squared). Eye placement may also help – eyes appear more forward in the “Coop” than in the “Sharpie”.
Clogged seed ports are the number one reason birds will stop using a well-stocked feeder. Unless you always use a shell-free seed or blend, you should shake or clean out your feeder ports regularly as stems and other debris may accumulate over time. Seeds may also “clump” at ports if exposed to rain or snow or even high humidity for long periods, especially hulled sunflower chips and Nyjer seeds.
To thoroughly clean plastic tube feeders, soak the cylinder and removable parts in a combination hot water and white vinegar (10% or so) and scrub clean. Cleaning brushes may also be available at a local wild bird specialty store and are ideal for this purpose. Rinse your feeder and allow it to dry thoroughly before refilling.
Northern Cardinal, male
Wooden feeders such as hopper or platform feeders can be scrubbed periodically with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush.
Then sit back and enjoy your birds!
If there are squirrels in your neighborhood and you don’t want to feed them, try finding a spot you can squirrel-proof with baffles. Baffles are metal or plastic devices placed above hanging feeders and below pole-mounted feeders. They are shaped so that squirrels cannot climb around them.
Feeder placement is critical to the success of any baffling system. Squirrels can jump six to eight feet sideways and four to five feet high, so consult this handy diagram if you want to baffle them. If squirrels can reach the feeder by jumping around the baffles, the baffles become ineffective and you may need a feeder to be squirrel-resistant.
How to Introduce a New Bird Feeder Featured
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.
During fall and winter chickadees and titmice may flock together and are often seen flitting back and forth from cover to your feeders at the same time. Titmice, which are larger than chickadees, dominate certain feeding niches chickadees might otherwise occupy. But the advantages of being part of a flock may compensate the chickadees for loss of feeding area.
Flocking advantages include having more than one pair of eyes to locate dwindling winter food supplies. The death rate due to predation may also decline when birds flock together. Because most trees have lost their leaves, the woods are more open in winter, making these birds more vulnerable to predation. Flocking birds also share responsibility for predator alerts. Once an alarm call is given, the flock will often engage in a behavior known as “mobbing”. Instead of fleeing, the birds will gather together and harass the predator. Titmice seem to be particularly bold in their attacks and will dive at the predator or pull at its feathers or fur.