Bird Feeding with George Petrides
Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.
Winter Haven Brush Pile Featured
Temperatures remain in the 90's in Texas but there winter storm warnings in parts of the country. So in Texas, we have not seen signs of fall but other parts of the country skipped fall and went straight to winter. Go figure.
With cold and snow becoming an issue, here are a couple of thoughts for providing winter protection for the birds.
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. It does 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.
Brush piles can be small or large, thin, or tall. Even a small brush pile offers cover.
Pick an acceptable spot in your yard, some place 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 hide.
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!
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.
Some hummingbird feeders are designed to attach directly to your window. Hummingbirds are very aggressive and have no fear of visiting a window feeder. To draw their attention, try putting a flower box under the window (even taping a length of red gift ribbon to the window pane will help!).
You also may want to put your feeder near flowers in your yard. Several types of “shepherd’s hooks” are available, perfect for hanging hummingbird feeder(s) in full view.
How to keep ants from feeders:
Little cups are available that are designed to go between your hanger and feeder. When you fill the cup with water, it acts like moat - ants can’t cross it. If you add a drop of vegetable oil to the water, it will evaporate more slowly.