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.
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.
Written years ago by Birding Master Scott Edwards – but perfectly relevant today!
1) In bird feeding, as in many things, there are three keys to reaching higher planes of satisfaction: location, location and location.
2) After location, the next step to bird-feeding nirvana is to feed the birds not only what they wish to eat, but also where they wish to eat it.
3) Once location and food have been thoughtfully chosen, one adds what may be the most difficult ingredient of all…patience!
4) Thou shall only put preferred seeds in your bird feeders.
5) Thou shalt not fight with the squirrels. If you feed the birds, you feed the squirrels...just do so on your terms, not theirs!
6) If you want to make your new feeder even more attractive to our feathered friends, fill it with bird ambrosia…..sunflower chips!
7) Never fail to provide the elixir of life…..water!
8) The true path to bird-feeding bliss is paved with simplicity. When in doubt, trust black-oil sunflower seed.
9) Thou shalt offer suet to our woodpecker friends, all year long to ensure that their children, too, shall come to know your yard as a place of peace and food!
10) Last but not least, and above all, remember: “When the birds disagree with the books, believe the birds!”
Thank you, Zen Master Edwards!
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”.