For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
The presence of birds enhances our landscapes. Some are colorful and all of them are interesting. Landscapes with nesting and feeding cover provided by thickets, thorny plants, and trees of small to tall stature attract birds. If the plantings also provide blooms with nectar, berries, nuts, and seeds even more birds will visit your landscape. Feeding the birds will also help attract individuals into easy viewing range. Now is a good time to begin feeding birds for the winter.
Sunflower seed is the favorite bird seed of many seed eating winter birds. Most notable are cardinals, blue jays, Inca doves, chicadees, titmice, and house finches. It is also a favorite of squirrels, English sparrows, and white-winged doves. It is relatively easy to reduce consumption by squirrels and white-winged doves. Purchase a steel feeder with a weight-sensitive perch. The perch can be set to exclude the heavy doves and squirrels. The squirrels also can not chew through the steel feeder.
Thistle is the best seed for attracting goldfinches to your yard. Thistle is usually fed with a tube-type feeder where the American and lesser goldfinches perch or hang upside down at each hole in the cylinder as they feed. The goldfinches will often come in large numbers. American goldfinches are drab during the winter, but the lesser goldfinches are a striking combination of black and yellow. Thistle feed is desirable because the squirrels do not have much interest in it and the seed is so small that the shells do not make as much a mess as the larger seeds.
Another strategy that works well to attract desirable birds and discourages squirrels is to feed safflower seed instead of sunflower seed. Cardinals are especially fond of safflower seed. Provide the seed in a tube feeder with small perches and it also reduces the amount of seed that the white-winged doves consume.
In some neighborhoods, several species of American sparrows and even towhees will come to your yard for seed. They will feed on seed that falls from the other feeders, but will like a mixed blend that includes some millet and even scratch grain. Feed it on a low platform or on the ground. Only put out as much as the birds will eat by noon to reduce the attraction to rodents.
To bring in the insect eating birds for observation, you will need to provide suet. Suet is beef fat. In the “old days” we begged chunks of suet from the butcher. Now we buy it in convenient packages that fit in to specially made suet block holders. The suet blocks are enhanced with nuts and fruit. Flavored dough blocks also attract many birds. Woodpeckers, kinglets, and even some warblers will visit the blocks. Jays, titmice, and chicadees also like them.
Poke apple or citrus halves on a nail or stem to attract housefinches, mockingbirds, and cardinals. It is not necessary to purchase fruit especially for the birds. Feed them the fruit that is past its prime. Pieces of banana and old grapes can be placed on a platform feeder for the birds.
Do not forget the importance of water. A bird bath that is rinsed and refilled every two days will attract as many birds as will stocked feeders.