HuffyHow: Birdy buffet

Unfortunately this poor bird is named "Tufted Titmouse." (Photo: Huffygirl)

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

Goldfinches are harder to spot in winter when their yellow plumage has faded. Look for the white and black bars on the wings. (Photo: Huffygirl)

 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.

My bird feeders: note squirrel baffle and ground cover. (Photo: Huffygirl)

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

Keep these guys out! (Photo: Huffygirl)

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.

A basic heated bird bath (Photo: Huffygirl)

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

This guy eats mainly close to the ground (Photo: Huffygirl)

 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.

Clinging birds like this Downy Woodpecker and Flickers, like the suet and Bark Butter. This feeder is just a board with a clip on the back.

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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93 thoughts on “HuffyHow: Birdy buffet

  1. I love watching the birds in my yard as I eat my breakfast. From fall to spring, they treat my covered pool like a mega-bird bath. I love their different “personalities,” and I cheer on the occasional little guy who goes up against the bigger bully.

    My grandmother inspired my love of nature and birds. The year after she died, juncos came to my yard for the first time. I had never seen one, and I immediately fell in love with their “ponchos” and Crayola Carnation Pink beaks. I like to think that my Nan sent them my way at a time when I was really missing her.

  2. In front of the house where I grew up in New Hampshire, was a small cranberry tree that my father planted. My mom hung suet in a mesh onion bag and us kids would kneel on the couch and look out the front window and delight in watching the chickadees and tufted titmouses that came along. We thought that name was really funny.

    • Thanks.
      I had all sorts of problems with squirrels – I used to run outside and throw things at them, which of course didn’t help a bit. I finally had to become ruthless and get the squirrel-proof feeders and pole. They still sneak around eating from the ground though, so I don’t feel too sorry for them.

    • No offense or anything, Mr Roycroft, but must you congratulate every Freshly Pressed author? It’s not exactly contributing to the conversation, and you’re cluttering the boards.

      • Is this true Mr. Roycroft? And if so, is congratulating others a bad thing, as the commentor implies? I’ll let Mr. R speak for himself if he cares to. Meanwhile, Beau, you have a great name and I appreciate your stopping by.

      • I only see it as bad because it’s motivated by nothing other than self-advertisement…

        I did enjoy your post by the way! It looks like you have a beautiful home. Being in the midst of an Australian summer, a house amongst the snow looks pretty damn appealing 🙂

      • Quite all right. Guess we’re still waiting for Mr. R. to weigh in. If he doesn’t – new topic: is congratulating EVERY blogger who’s been FP’d a form of self-advertisement, or just well-intentioned good manners?

      • No, I’m lucky to be in the south-west, far away from Cyclone Yasi. But thanks for your concern — it sounds like the Queenslanders will have yet another massive clean-up and rebuild to do. Fortunately no casualities that I’ve heard of so far, though…

        In response to your question: I think it’s good manners up to a certain point, but he’s commented and ‘liked’ every single Freshly Pressed post I’ve ever read (of course, I haven’t been around here for very long). I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t actuallyreading the posts.

      • Beau, what am I going to do with you? 🙂 Since Mr. R has not weighed in, I feel we need to give him the benefit of the doubt – maybe he’s just genuinely happy for every person who has ever been Freshly Pressed.

        Glad to hear that you escaped the bad weather where you are. Stay away from the cyclones if you can!

  3. When I saw this post about birds, I wasn’t expecting to read the word Superbowl in the opening paragraph.
    Good advice. We must have used the cheap seed years ago, because I recall spills and waste.

  4. Some excellent tips here- especially on how to keep squirrels away who seem to have Houdini type of skills to get into all sorts of bird feeders and opening locks and cages (for food- not for squirrels!…lol). My problem is- I try to feed the birds as much as possible, however much bigger birds (crow type of creatures) have taken on flying into the bird feeders- thus making all the food scatter- and them eating it all- and not leaving anything for the little ones. I appreciate everyone is hungry at winter but any suggestions?

    • You might try a squirrel-proof feeder like the green one in my picture. The perch is counterweighted so if something heavy lands on it, like an extra-large bird or a squirrel, the feeder closes and they can’t get to the food. There is another kind of feeder that protects smaller birds – it’s a tube feeder surrounded by a cage. The birds have to fly through the cage to get to the perches, so only small birds can get through. I usually only have trouble with crows in the spring when the winter birds have decreased feeding. That’s how I know it’s time to put the suet feeders away – the crows devour it and take over. Thanks for reading.

  5. Wow, what a great group of “Freshly Pressed” selections in this group of February 1st, 2011. I can only guess by the likes of the last batch, that the regular selector is now, back to work. This is a great posting, on the care and feeding of wild birds. Worth every minute in its reading!

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  7. It’s all about perception, isn’t it? For someone who dreads the busyness of the holidays, January and February have always been strangely comforting months for me. I love to hibernate as well as play in the snow, which has been a LOT this winter. I have a special place in my heart for little birds – especially sparrows. I envy the view you have out your window, along with the bird feeders. I live in NYC and have to go searching for wildlife…. Thank you for the lovely post and photos! 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words. NYC has certainly gotten more than its share of snow this year. We’re awaiting a big storm here today, which should bring a flurry of birds to the feeders. I am lucky to have a place to feed the birds.

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  10. Wow… how to attract birds and feed them… I adore birds but sometimes wish ours would have a holiday (well, actually they do – they take time off after it rains, to go looking for real worms, and after having their offspring they go and take time off to moult!) as we feed them and feed them and it is neverending! (This is actually not a complaint.)

    We’re in Wales in the UK, so we don’t have many of the same birds as you do, so it’s nice to see some different species. I’ve written on my blog about our wild birds – under the ‘birds’ category – if you want to take a look some time. (Oh, by the way, I’m over here via Margaret Reyes Dempsey’s blog, not FP as I very rarely think to look at that – but congratulations anyway!)

    We feed our birds seed, corn, mealworms, and occasionally bread. Most of them having got a taste for the ‘good stuff’ turn their beaks up at the bread! The mealworms are the most popular with most of them.

    A good way to keep squirrels from eating bird food is to put ground chilli on the areas that the birds use, as the birds themselves aren’t bothered or upset by it but the squirrels are. They hate chilli! Chilli sauce works just as well as the powder.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Margaret and I have been regularly reading each other’s blogs for a couple months now.

      I’ll check out your blog; it will be interesting to hear about your birds there.

      I’ve thought about trying meal worms but I can’t bring myself to look at them or touch them, so chances are it will never happen. I’ve heard some people say that the chilli peppers can hurt the squirrel’s eyes. That’s why I went to the squirrel-proof pole and feeders instead, which works great.

  11. By the way, one particular blue tit taps on the window when his fatball is getting near the end or if someone else is on it. “Can you please get that bird off there?” Birds are definitely not ‘bird brained’!

  12. Just the other day I saw a hawk taking a bath in a roadside puddle (we had a rare melt day in late January). Your post reminded me that they need the open water all year long – for drinking and bathing. I didn’t know that. Lovely post & photos … and cheers for being Fresh Pressed, well deserved 🙂 MJ

  13. After I had a nesting pair of robins in my cypress tree, i love watching & feeding my birds, most are common sparrows that I’m still fond of, while cardinals & blue-jays are strikingly beautiful, somehow I love the little petite birds like the dark eye Junco.

  14. I would LOVE to feed the little birdies, I so enjoy them… but we have a (mostly outdoor) cat, and I worry that I would just be luring the little things to their death! Any suggestions on that one?

    • I’ve heard that some people put a bell around the cat’s neck. The birds can hear kitty coming and temporarily fly to safety. I don’t have a cat myself so have not been able to try this. I do see some neighborhood cats try to hang around my feeder, but the birds seem to get wind of them and stay clear. Maybe birds are able to pick up the cat’s scent. It will be interesting to hear if the bell works.

  15. Great pictures. Love them.
    My dictionairy says the “tufted Titmoise” is “die Indianermeise” in German (Native Indian titmouse). So I think there is not such a bird here in Europe, only his relatives…

    • You’ll have to be on the lookout for them – maybe you’ll be the first in Germany to see one. I see you have some interesting birds on your blog too. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. Nice photos!
    I live very close to the English Channel, and have only once seen a squirrel in my garden. However, I do have herring gulls. These birds are really big, and when they want something they can scare away some of the smaller birds.

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  19. I have a bird feeder that attaches to my window via a suction cup. I’m able to see the birds fairly close up as long as I don’t move! Cardinals have made it their feeding home, along with another type of bird I still need to identify. It’s great fun watching them. Now I want a feeder that has a mirror so they see themselves instead of me; This way I can watch them more closely.

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