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.
Despite the cold weather in many parts of the country spring is not too far away. Purple Martin Scouts will start arriving in Florida and Texas sometime in January. The Purple Martin Conservation Association hosts a Scout Arrival map. Check it on a regular basis to determine when scouts start arriving in your area. Martin houses should be up a couple of weeks before the expected arrival of the martins in your area.
Winter can be a dangerous time in the backyard. Leaves are off the trees, making roosting spots much more visible to predators. Wind, heavy rain and snow take turns making the local environment inhospitable to birds and other small creatures. This is a time of testing for our wild friends.
A simple brush pile can help make our yards a little safer during this harsh time of year. It’s simple to create, doesn’t require a major investment of time or materials, and can provide safe haven for birds, bugs, and bunnies, among others. The birds can hide from cats and hawks, stay warmer and dryer in snowstorms, and even find a snack in the decaying wood.
Pick an acceptable spot in your yard, someplace that won’t be a visual or physical stumbling point for people. To be of best use to birds, you want to create a kind of thicket, with dense cover on the outside and more open spaces on the inside. You can start as you would to build a campfire, creating a teepee of dead wood. Then pile on branches pruned from shrubs and trees, twigs dropped by wind and storms, even leftover greenery from the holidays. Christmas trees can have a whole new life tucked in a corner of your yard where the birds can hind.
So start 2018 doing some creative brush pile building (a great outdoor activity for children, too) for your birds.
Wild bird specialty stores and other outlets carry many varieties of birdseed: black-oil sunflower, peanuts, Nyjer, millet and others. They also carry seed blends with varying characteristics which influence their entertainment value for you.
Male Northern Cardinal. Photograph © Nic Allen
We believe that the bird-feeding public mostly feeds birds because you enjoy seeing them, and that you prefer feeding small and colorful birds (e.g. chickadees, cardinals, goldfinches, titmice and woodpeckers) over grackles and squirrels.
One seed type which gets lots of attention these days is safflower, a small, whitish, plump seed with very little shell. If you are frustrated with European Starlings, Common Grackles or squirrels at your feeders, safflower has the potential to make you happier. They don’t like safflower much and tend to stay away from it, while titmice, chickadees and cardinals usually learn to like it.
Note: Safflower doesn’t belong in most blends because the problem-solving properties of safflower are negated. When added to a seed blend, unwanted visitors will simply find other seeds or nuts to enjoy. Plus, there are less expensive seeds that are more desirable than safflower to the birds you prefer to see at your feeders. So as an ingredient in a seed blend, safflower neither increases visits from more desirable birds, nor decreases visits from “black birds” or squirrels. It may actually add cost, but not value.
Chickadee on hopper feeder with suet holders on the end.
A high-quality birdseed blend should contain black-oil sunflower or hulled sunflower (as the first ingredient listed). Other quality ingredients are black-stripe sunflower, white proso millet and some forms of nutmeat, such as peanut (pieces). Always read the ingredient s list before buying a seed blend and avoid those that don’t list some form of oil sunflower as the primary ingredient. You should also avoid blends that contain filler products such as milo, wheat, oats, rice, flax, canary seed or “mixed grain products.” These seeds only add weight and actually diminish the blend’s attractiveness. They may decrease the cost per pound of seed, but they will increase your cost per bird visit!
Research indicates that a woodpecker can hammer 25-strokes-per-second with its head moving at a speed of 20-feet-per-second. Sounds like a lot of wood to me. (From the National Bird-Feeding Society)
Here are recommended ways for cleaning several feeder types.
Clean feeders keep your birds visiting regularly and healthier too!
Plastic tube feeders – Clear ports of seed feeders regularly and shake to settle debris. For thorough cleaning, soak the cylinder and removable parts in a solution of one-part white vinegar to one-part hot water and scrub clean. Use a bottle or bird-feeder brush to clean the cylinder or force a rag inside. Rinse and dry thoroughly – moisture left inside the tube may cause your seed to spoil or clump.
Wood feeders – Scrub periodically with hot soapy water and a stiff brush; rinse and air dry thoroughly.
Hummingbird feeders – Clean with very hot water every three to four days; more often in hot weather. The same 1:1 white vinegar and water solution can be used on your hummingbird bird feeders, as long as you rinse them very thoroughly. Clean areas around the feeding ports with a Q-tip swab or small hummer feeder brush.
Then sit back and enjoy your birds.