Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tips to Attract & Feed Wild Birds in the Winter

Do you like to feed wild birds and/or watch them flit around your yard and garden?  I do.  I have several bird feeders in our yard and near windows so I can have a front row seat for nature.  Their antics and pecking order (pun intended) are fascinating to me.  I came across these tips and want to share them with you.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to feed wild birds this winter when their food becomes scarce.
1. You are making a commitment
You accept a responsibility when you decide to take on wild bird feeding.  Keep in mind that you will need to purchase bird feed often, and make trips out to your bird feeder at least several times a week (daily in our neighborhood) to refill  the feeders or clean up the area.  (Birds can be very messy!)  And once you begin, the birds will learn to depend on your offerings.  They will return hungry and often!
2. The right food
Certain birds like certain foods.  The secret to attracting birds to your backyard is to feed specific to find out what kinds of birds are in your area and which ones you want to attract. Then buy the feed accordingly.  
Here are the preferred diets of some of the more common backyard birds.
- Sunflower seeds: black-capped chickadees, blue jays, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, gold finches, evening grosbeaks
- White millet: mourning doves, house finch, gold finch
- Cracked corn: cardinals, mourning doves, pigeons, blue jays, starlings
- Peanuts: tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, red and white-breasted nuthatches, hairy and downy woodpeckers
- Suet: black-capped chickadees, evening grosbeaks, house and gold finches
Sparrows will eat all of the above except peanuts.
3. The right feeder
Some birds, such as mourning doves and black-eyed juncos, prefer feeding on the ground. If you want to attract ground-feeders, be sure you have some sort of covering in the form of shrubbery or fencing, as ground-feeding tends to attract predators. If you have a hanging feeder, it's still a good idea to provide protection for ground-feeders because some of the seed will fall to the ground, attracting ground-feeding birds. For hanging feeders, get one that is sturdy and has a guard against squirrels and raccoons.  You may also want one or two feeders that are built just for the smaller birds so the larger ones don’t dominate them.  Give the larger birds a different one or two. 
4. Plant trees and shrubs that produce winter berries
Another way to attract birds to your back yard is to have plants that bear fruit in the winter.  Examples include dogwood, American holly, wax myrtle, and firethorn. These are also lovely landscape plants, and they provide protection for their feathered munchers in the form of thorns or dense growth.  I wonder if any of these grow well in our high desert climate.  Looks like a little research is in order!
5. Water
A water source such as a birdbath also attracts birds. In the winter, you will need to keep the water from freezing either by hand (such as pouring warm water into it periodically) or by purchasing a commercial birdbath that uses electricity to heat the water.  Gosh…who knew there was such a thing?  Guess I need to wander the garden centers more often!
6. Be patient
It often takes a few days for the birds to discover your buffet.  If you are willing to wait, however, some feathered friends will eventually show up.  As word gets around, more and more birds will come to your feeder and you will be blessed with many bird watching opportunities.
Have fun with your new-found feathered friends and let us know how it goes!  What birds visit your feeders?

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Huge Green Hugs,Pat

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