Feed Them and They Will Come

 

Rectangular or House-style Bird Feeder

Originally posted 6-27-13

What I have learned through trial and error is that if you wish to attract a wide variety of birds to your home you need to provide a variety of food options nearby. Some of you may believe there aren’t that many types of birds living in your area but I am certain we all have hidden beauties to be discovered in our cities, neighborhoods and rural areas. I assure you once you set out a wide selection of cuisine you will be surprised to see how many diverse avians will come to breakfast! Before I go on, please know I find nothing at all wrong with catering to our friendly sparrows and finches, but by simply adding a little something extra to your yard or routine you can entertain many other types of birds in your landscape as well. Providing sustenance to birds is especially important in the late fall when a number of them are migrating from their summer homes to their winter homes. It is even more important to do so throughout the barren winter months when those birds that remain in the colder climates find it difficult to locate insects, seeds and fresh berries through the ice and snow. Mother Nature does a good job of providing for and directing our wildlife, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to help her out a bit when the going gets a little tough on our feathered friends. Providing a smorgasbord for the birds can be accomplished through several means – by planting berry producing shrubs, allowing flowers and vines go to seed and of course, placing a bird feeder or two around your yard – perhaps a customized one (more on this below.) If you browse the aisles at a nearby specialty shop, local home improvement store, or neighborhood superstore, you are sure to find a wide array of bird feeders from which to choose.

platform feeder

If you are a beginner or have recently moved, I’d suggest a nice platform bird feeder (immediately above) as it allows all types and sizes of birds to dine. It will serve as your main attraction, so to speak, and later on you can add a couple of different feeders, if you wish, once the birds have recognized your home as a feeding station.

The list below is not at all exhaustive, but I’d like to share my experience with plants and feeders and the various birds they have attracted – keeping in mind I reside in North Texas:

Flowers to let go to Seed (chickadees and cardinals) Sunflower, Zinnia, Purple Coneflower

Plants Producing Berries (mockingbirds, starlings and cedar waxwings) Dogwood, Bradford Pear, Nandina, Hollies, Honeysuckle, Viburnum, Indian Hawthorne

holly bush

Holly Berries in December 2012

Types of Bird Feeders

Platform – large, open tray – can be hung or mounted on a post. In my opinion this is the easiest feeder to place out to quickly attract a wide variety of birds. Right now, in early December, my platform feeder is attracting blue jays, mourning doves, juncos, cardinals and chickadees. The larger birds will indeed dominate the feeder, but what they push out, purposely or accidentally, will typically be eaten by smaller birds below.

Rectangular – house-style feeder with a small to medium perch all around (topmost photo.) Seed is contained in the upper space and slowly released in the perch tray as the birds eat. Smaller birds enjoy this feeder, such as sparrows, chickadees, finches and juncos. I have seen blue jays and mockingbirds at these feeders as well, but they usually are too big to perch or will perch sideways for a short time. If you find you have attracted a lot of large grackles and other blackbirds to your original platform feeder, you may wish to place this type of feeder on the other side of your property to accommodate your smaller feathered friends.

Finch Feeder – typically a cylindrical tube with small perches and tiny feed holes. For finches, of course! Be sure to fill this type of feeder with nyjer seed or a finch mix as larger seed will clog it up.

Peanut feeder – typically a hanging wire basket or tube that allows for whole peanuts to be placed inside, but has openings large enough for birds to retrieve the nuts. Blue jays love peanuts!

Suet feeder – rectangular wire container that you typically hang on a limb or close to a tree trunk. Blue jays and especially, woodpeckers love suet. Other birds will also eat the suet. It provides much needed fat for their bodies in the winter months. You can find a wide variety of suet, some containing nuts encased in the solid fat.

Apple or Fruit Feeder – usually a rod device that allows you to pierce the core of an apple, pear, etc. and clasp or hang it from a tree or hook. At specialty shops you may find fruit feeders that are designed to hold multiple pieces. Mockingbirds, starlings and cardinals enjoy fruit. I want to add that you can use any of the above types of birdseed in the platform feeder since it is essentially a huge plate! If you do not have a peanut, suet or fruit feeder, no problem! Just place whole peanuts, a block of suet, and/or an apple in your platform. It will serve the same purpose.

A last piece of advice when it comes to filling your feeders: Invest in fresh, quality birdseed. Usually a higher content of sunflower, safflower, nuts and dried fruit will dictate the quality. Birds will not eat stale seed and you will not attract many varieties with a blend that is strictly millet or other filler seed. Also, old seed may be slightly molded or it may contain moth larvae and believe me, from experience, it is hard to get rid of those tiny moths in your pantry once they have hatched! If you wish to attract and maintain visiting birds, it is simply best to supply them with good seed. And, on the off chance you happen to pick up a bag containing moth larvae, be sure to keep your spare seed in an airtight container. I now keep mine in a sealed plastic tub in the garage. Before I sign off, I want to again pay tribute to Mother Nature. You see, when birds consume certain berries and seeds, they are indeed renewing our forests, shrubs and wild flowers for seasons to come. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, some seed (such as that of the moonflower vine) has to go through a bit of damage or turmoil, such as through a fire, drought, flood or yes, even a bird’s gut, to penetrate their hard coat and become viable. So when you see your beautiful hollies and nandinas being stripped of their red berries by a voracious flock of cedar waxwings, not only should you take a minute to admire the beauty of the birds but you should also acknowledge the wonder of nature before you and how rebirth will occur from their feast! I hope you chose to plant a few bird friendly shrubs and/or invest in a bird feeder or two this winter. As the cold sets in and our trees become bare, you will be grateful for the beautiful birds that come to visit and adorn your landscape.

Until next time,

Cindy

P.S. Don’t forget to provide water to your feathered friends as well this season. If you are without a bird bath or yours is perpetually frozen over, an inexpensive plant saucer will do just as well as long as you bring it inside and fill it daily during freezing temps. If you are up to it, you can find heated baths/saucers online or in one of the specialty stores.

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