This time of year the winter doldrums begin to set in. The fun of Christmas and New Year’s has passed and the Superbowl without The Bears is just not anything to get excited about. It’s too early to psyche oneself up for spring and Valentine’s Day is just a blip of a holiday. That makes it a great time of year to enjoy watching the colorful and interesting birds that come to backyard feeders many times a day. Backyard bird feeding is not hard, and for
a minimal investment you can enjoy watching the birds from the cozy inside comfort. If you haven’t been feeding the birds since fall, it may take a while to attract them to a new feeder. Be patient – this is the time of year when birds are burning lots of calories to stay warm, and they’ll eventually figure out there is a new feeder in town and come around. The best place to get advice on how to start bird feeding is your local birdseed store. There ‘s also a ton of information available online. In the meantime, here’s a few HuffyHow tips.
Start with a basic pole and offer at least two different foods. This time of year the birds are looking for high-fat foods to help them stay warm, so a good place to start is a suet or Bark Butter feeder (a commercial suet and peanut butter mix) and a mixed seed feeder with peanuts, sunflower seeds and millet. My feeders are: mixed seed and peanuts in the green feeder; mixed finch food in the tube feeder, suet in the green cylinder and Bark Butter on the wooden board.
Tell the squirrels to keep out. Use a squirrel baffle on your pole and place it
far enough away from ledges, roofs, and decks from which the squirrels can jump onto your pole. Or use only squirrel-proof feeders, like the green one here. If you feel too sorry for the squirrels to exclude them, set out corn in a squirrel feeding area separate from your bird feeder. Don’t feel too sorry for them – if you let squirrels take over your feeder, the birds will be driven away.
Provide a water source – a heated bird bath works great. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, even in the winter.
Keep things clean – periodically clean feeders according to the recommendations that came with your feeder, and discard seed that becomes wet or moldy. Spoiled seed can make birds sick.
Don’t forget the ground feeders. Birds like Juncos and Mourning Doves only eat from the ground. Most of the time enough seed will fall from your feeder onto the ground for these critters, or you can sprinkle some out periodically or add a ground feeder station. (but be careful, these can attract squirrels.) I put a handful of seed on my patio ledge so I can
watch the skittish Dark-eyed Juncos.
Avoid bargain bin seed. There’s often a lot of filler in the cheaper discount seed. The bags may be cheaper but you spend more in the long run because there’s more waste. I like the “no mess” varieties of seed which only uses shelled seeds. These cost more, but there is no wasted seed, and no mess of seed shells on the ground to clean up later.
Provide cover. Birds need plants and bushes nearby to give them shelter while feeding. You can give them some extra shelter in the coldest months by recycling your Christmas tree as a temporary shelter underneath the feeder.
Name names. Get a bird guide-book or check online.
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- HOW TO: 7 Ways to Attract Birds to your Backyard this Winter (mysweetgreens.com)