Get ready to welcome the hungry birds of winter
Some of the aggressive birds leave for the winter. Many wonderful ones are around to brighten our yards and lighten our spirits.
As a new season approaches there are always some new things to do for feeding wild birds. Whether its adding new feeders or foods, your choices can make all the difference in what species you attract. You can keep it simple or create a feeding station that will bring great excitement throughout the season. Here are some tips to help you make the best of your yard this winter to attract some wonderful wild birds.
The places where your bird feeders are located for summer may not be ideal for winter. Take into account what it’s like when your yard is full of snow. Will you still be able to conveniently access your feeders to fill them? The winter of2013-14 brought an immense amount of snow and some people had difficulty even finding somewhere to put it, never mind trudging through it to get to feeders. If you hang your feeders in trees that are far out in the yard, consider using instead a shepherd’s hook-style pole that you can place in a convenient spot. There are many pole systems available to hang multiple feeders on, and even deck or fence mounting options.
One of the benefits of winter feeding is that some undesirable birds are no longer here. Common grackles and brown headed cowbirds are just some of the aggressive birds that can dominate feeders in summer. Once they have migrated, we are left with a great selection of birds. Some of the most popular are blue jays, black- capped chickadees, white and red breasted nut hatches, and downy and hairy woodpeckers.
There are also new species that arrive in winter, such as common and hoary redpolls, pine siskins, red and white-winged crossbills, and evening and pine grosbeaks. Many of these birds are extremely bright and colourful, making them a delight to see every day.
There are many choices of feeders to use in winter. Some are general, while others may be specific for a type of bird or food. A tube feeder with a tray attached is a great feeder for all birds and most foods. A platform feeder is perfect for the larger birds like blue jays and grosbeaks, but all birds will use this style. Select one with a roof to limit the amount of snow piling on the seed. Suet feeders are available in cage or log styles. Either design is great for woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees, and both designs are among my favourites.
Peanut feeders are made to offer either shelled or in- shell peanuts. Both are designed so that the birds to have to work a little to get the peanuts out, which means that they can’t haul them away so quickly. Window feeders bring the birds up close and personal and will also prevent any window collisions.
Finch feeders are specially designed just for finches, and most people think they are just for summer. This is not the case, since new finch species are on hand to use them in winter. There are also many unusual styles of feeders that will create different and even entertaining bird behaviour. For example, most styles of feeder shave perches, but other styles designed for clinging are available. The design will deter some birds but readily attract others.
Black oil sunflower seed is the universal food for all desirable birds. Many people think that a mix with a variety of seeds is better, but such mixes actually produce a huge mess on the ground. Songbirds don’t eat most of the seeds in generic mixes, and they throw the unwanted seeds out of the feeder.
House sparrows are captivated by white millet and will stay at their own feeder to eat it, instead of chasing other species away from theirs
The right foods and feeders will make all the difference in the cleanliness around your feeders and make your winter feeding station busy and entertaining. Have fun!
Sherrie Versluis owns The Preferred Perch.