Friday, February 8, 2013

Birdfeeding Basics

Feeding birds in winter, while not necessary for survival (birds are equipped to survive winter weather without human assistance), can provide them with an edge during severe weather.  Furthermore, observing the antics of our feathered friends at the feeders can provide hours of delight!

When feeding wild birds, make sure you feed high quality seed for maximum nutrition and energy. To attract the most species, black oil sunflower seed is the best.  In addition to sunflower seeds, peanut chips provide a great source of fat and energy.  This mix attracts nuthatches, cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmice and house finches. Try not to feed the cheaper mixes, as this will attract unwanted, non-native house sparrows and starlings.  In addition, nyjer seed in a thistle feeder will be devoured by goldfinches.  Finally, birds love suet, which provides a concentrated source of energy.  Suet should always be hung so that critters other than birds cannot get to it.

To attract a variety of birds, different types of feeders should be purchased.  (Note, unless you want to be eaten out of house and home, squirrel proof feeders are a wise investment.  There will be plenty of spilled seed on the ground for them to nibble on.)  For a basic set up I suggest a hopper feeder, nyjer feeder and suet cage.  Additionally, one can add a platform feeder close to the ground to attract birds such as sparrows, doves and juncos as well as a tube feeder for smaller birds.

It is vital that you provide a safe, hygienic feeding station for your avian guests.  Please make sure that feeders are either at least 30 feet away or within 3 feet of windows so as to avoid deadly collisions, and make sure that there is cover nearby for the birds to retreat to.  In addition, feeders need to be kept clean in order to prevent diseases from spreading through the local population.  At least once a month, empty and clean your feeders with a mix of water and bleach.  Please be sure to dry thoroughly before refilling.
Finally, because hundreds of millions of birds are killed by cats each year, I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your cat indoors.  A bird’s life is challenging enough, fraught with harsh weather conditions and natural predators.  There is no need to tip the scales against them by allowing your cat to predate birds.  For more information on this topic see:

Providing extra energy and nutrition for your feathered friends is a rewarding experience for both humans and birds alike!

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