Monday, September 29, 2008

Tips on Feeding our Feathered Friends

Two sounds of autumn are unmistakable, the
hurrying rustle of crisp leaves blown along the
street or road by a gusty wind, and the gabble
of a flock of migrating geese. Both are warnings
of chill days ahead, fireside and topcoat weather.
~Hal Borland

Many of us love feeding the birds, especially during the winter. Today's tips will help you to get started feeding our feathered friends. Remember to think outside the box when it comes to bird feeders and supplies. I just bought a large pot tray at the store on clearance for .50 and I'm going to drill a couple holes in the bottom and use it as a tray feeder.

Store your seed in a heavy container with a tight lid, especially if it's in the garage or anywhere mice might get to it. When we lived in the city, I had the squirrels chew right through a plastic garbage can I was using!

Birds have a tough time during cold, harsh weather, especially when the snow is covering their food and the insects are dormant. Now is a good time to prepare for feeding them. Start with washing your feeders and planning out what food you would like to offer them this year before the harsh weather hits.

The first thing to do is wash your feeders with a stiff brush and a solution of one part bleach to nine parts warm water. Rinse well afterwards and dry. Wet seed can really clog your feeders and it can grow bacteria. Another note on old seed-in the spring be sure to rake or sweep up the old seed and add it to your compost or waste pile. Once your feeders are clean it's time to fill them with seed and put them up.

Feeders that are on poles or stakes should be at least 5 foot off the ground and not too near trees, bushes, fence etc. They should be 8-10 foot from any surface that would provide a place for cats or squirrels to jump from. Though you should have some type of bushes, trees or evergreens beyond that 8-10 foot area that the
birds can use to safely perch. Provide a few different feeders and you'll have a nice variety of birds to watch.

Seeds that will really provide the best nutrition for the birds and a good selection of birds for you to watch will be black-oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, niger (thistle) and suet. If you want to limit what you buy, go with the black sunflower seeds. They'll attract woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, titmice, nuthatches and chickadees. Cracked corn and seed on the ground, or a seed table/platform that is lower to the ground, will attract the mourning doves, juncos and bobwhites. If you have a tree stump you can put on a plastic pot tray, securing it with a screw or nail, and use that for a feeding platform. It's always neat to try many different types of feeders to observe which ones are used the most and what birds are attracted to them. Make simple feeders out of milk jugs, bleach containers, soda bottles etc. Always make sure they are washed and rinsed well before using.

To attract birds with plants you can leave the seed heads on black eyed Susans, coneflowers, sedums, sunflowers, calendulas and teasel. If you have ornamental grasses leave those up too. Two other unusual plants to leave for birds are cardoons and globe artichokes.

Remember, the birds have a lot of food currently with the seed heads, berries and other fruits, so they may not go to your feeders as often, but you want to make them available so they know they are there before the harsh weather begins.

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