Bird Feeding with George Petrides
Tips on attracting and feeding backyard birds.
One exciting way to enjoy the upcoming fall migration is by supercharging your yard and feeding station for hummingbirds. The hummingbird nesting season is pretty much complete, and you may already have noticed increased activity in your yard. As this pre-migration period kicks-in, hummer numbers at your feeders will increase as the birds prepare for their journey south. Migrating is an energy-intensive activity and hummingbirds must bolster fat reserves to fuel their migration flights. Adding an additional feeder or two and providing natural food sources will benefit the birds and provide some fun high-speed entertainment when hummingbirds flock to your yard.
There are several hummingbird festivals around the country, here are a couple of the more popular events.
Aug. 23 - Aug. 26
Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration
Fort Davis, Texas
Sept. 13 - Sept. 16
30th Rockport-Fulton HummerBird Celebration
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.