|We feed the birds year-round at our house. Winter, of course, is prime time for feeding, as much of their natural dietary substance such as insects and fruit are unavailable to the birds. Species present during the colder climate rely on people to supplement their diet, and we always have a diverse crowd at our feeders from October through April. Black-oiled sunflower seeds are the number one choice all year among nearly all our feeder birds. We buy it in bulk and keep the feeders stocked at all times. Cardinals, Titmice, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Goldfinches number among our most frequent cold weather visitors. Many birds love fresh fruit, so we provide an assortment of fruits during warmer months.|
Ground feeders such as Doves, Towhees and Juncos also love sunflower seeds as well as millet, so
we sprinkle them on the ground in an open area next to a brush pile they utilize
for cover when predators are nearby. What type of feeders should you use?
That depends largely on where you live and what species are present during a
given time. We have found that having a diversity of type and number of
best. Larger birds such as Blue Jays are very competitive and will keep
smaller birds away, if you don't provide enough feeders and space between
them. Ideally one large hopper type feeder with access from multiple sides
allows several birds to feed concurrently. Place the large feeder on
a pole, and use a baffle to keep the squirrels at bay. Baffles are available at
most hardware stores.
|Two or more others of different types placed in adjacent trees or atop poles serve to create a sort of sanctuary where a large number of different birds can gather to feed in safety. Numbers will grow too once "word gets around" about where to get a free lunch! Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and other small birds prefer the clear tube type feeders with multiple perches filled with Niger seed (also called Thistle). Niger seed is expensive compared to sunflower seed. But again, buying in bulk will save money while offering the reward of seeing 15-20 brightly colored Goldfinches vying for an open feeder perch. Ours is hung in a tree with some small limbs nearby that serve as a waiting area while all the perches are full.|
|Another type feeder that is popular with woodpeckers, Titmice, Nuthatches, and many others is a wire mesh tube filled with unsalted peanuts. We had to refill ours this past winter about every 4-5 days. Peanuts are high in nutritional value, and the birds are crazy about them. We leave the peanut feeder up year-round, as it is a popular choice for summer birds. Of course, no feeding area should be without that most important need: Water. Don't put the birdbath in the shed after freezing weather hits. That is the time you can help the most. Small, thermostatically controlled heaters specially made for the purpose, will keep the birds in fresh water all winter.|
|That is especially important during icy, cold weather, as many birds die from lack of water after several days. Springtime ushers in songbirds and warm weather, and winter birds head north to their breeding ground. Once the freeze danger is gone, we attach an adjustable (water) drip feeder to our birdbath. It serves two purposes: 1.) water is always fresh and full to the top and 2.) more birds are attracted to the motion as the water drips. Summertime feeding differs from that of winter as birds in warm weather primarily resume their natural fruit and insect diet. But don't put your feeders away! During spring and summer, birds still use feeders to supplement their natural diet.|
|Suet is high in fat and a most crucial dietary element in winter, replacing precious energy lost by birds in cold weather. It remains a staple year round at our house. The Woodpeckers especially love suet. A family of five Downy Woodpeckers visits us everyday. Suet is available from several commercial sources, or you can make your own. Mix lard, yellow cornmeal, raisins, peanut butter and melt over a medium burner, then pour into a pan and let it set in a cool area until hard. Suet will attract a wide variety of birds anytime of year. Competition among species can be fierce, so we have two suet feeders placed about 30 feet apart. During snow or icy weather, don't forget the wrens and other ground feeding birds Check out my winter feeder here. Good luck with feeding the birds in your back yard!|