Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, November 10, 2007
“Winter Bird Feeding”
The hummingbirds have headed south from most neighborhoods so it is not unreasonable to take down and clean up the sugar water feeder for the season. I leave mine up, however, because most winters I get visits from a wayward rufous hummingbird or two. The golden-fronted woodpeckers also have learned to feed from the hummingbird feeders.
To replace the sugar water feeders, consider feeding seeds and suet for the winter. Bird feeding is easy, but there are a few things to consider to keep the seed bill reasonable and your success level high.
Sunflower seed is the most popular seed for area bird feeders because it is a relished by so many of our favorite birds such as cardinals, chickadees, titmice, Inca doves, goldfinches, woodpeckers, and blue jays. Unfortunately, sunflower seed is also a favorite seed of white-winged doves, English sparrows, grackles, and squirrels.
The usual way to feed sunflower seed is with a hopper-type feeder with a perch for the birds at the opening where the seed leaves the hopper. To reduce feed consumption by squirrels, white-winged and grackles, purchase a steel feeder with a weight-sensitive perch. The steel construction prevents the squirrels from chewing in to the feeder. The weight-sensitive perch can be set to shut out heavier feeders such as white-winged doves, grackles, and squirrels.
Safflower seed is a white seed with a shell like a sunflower. Cardinals, chickadees, and titmice like safflower seed almost as much as they do sunflower seed. Squirrels and other birds are not very fond of it. Using safflower seed is a good option to attract cardinals without encouraging squirrels and other birds. Safflower seed can be fed from hopper feeders or tubular feeders with perches.
Thistle seed is the favorite food of lesser and American goldfinches. House finches also like it. Thistle is usually fed from a tubular feeder with the seed access under the perch to encourage the goldfinches to show off their acrobatic abilities.
Most insect eaters will pass up seed feeders, but they will often accept beef fat and/or a dough mixture from a suet feeder. The suet blocks come in every flavor you can think of including plain, citrus, pepper, berry, nuts, and seeds. Birds may have a preference, but they seem to eat all of them equally well. The advantage of the pepper flavored suet is that squirrels do not like it. Squirrels will eat most other suet flavors
If you are blessed with squirrels in your neighborhood, use the pepper flavored suet. The birds readily eat it and the squirrels pass it up.
Birds that are readily attracted to suet are kinglets, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, some warblers, and starlings.
American sparrows such as chipping sparrows, song
Fruit will attract several desirable species of birds as well. Feed pieces of apple, orange, banana, and grapes in a wire mesh basked hung from a tree limb or arbor. The baskets designed for seed blocks are available at pet food stores, feed stores, retail nurseries, and wild bird seed outlets. Mockingbirds, orioles, jays, thrashes, woodpeckers, and house finches will visit a feeding station supplied with fruit.
Select a location for each feeder where you can observe the action from a window or seat on the patio. Feeders that hang from a branch and are more open attract more birds than a feeder in the middle of the crown or near the trunk.