Did you know you can bring a great deal of color into a drab winter landscape with the addition of a bird feeder or two? Birds get the majority of their food from natural sources (plant native!) but bird feeders are a great supplement for over 100 species of North American birds and can be especially useful in the winter when natural food might be scarce. An easy way to get started is with a simple tube feeder on a pole, preferably with a baffle of some type to keep the squirrels from stealing all your seed!
Placement of your feeder can be important. Situating it where it is easy to see from a window will allow you to watch your birds from the comfort of your home, however it also needs to be within easy reach of some sort of cover where the birds can escape from any predators such as neighborhood cats (of course you keep your cat indoors!), hawks and other predators. To reduce the risk of window collisions place your feeder closer than 3 feet or more than 30 feet from your window and ideally use some type of collision prevention on your windows. 1
Next, consider the type of seed you want to provide. Black oil sunflower is a good all-around attractive seed to many types of birds and is calorically dense, providing much needed energy for our feathered friends. If you’re concerned about the mess that the seed hulls can make, sunflower hearts or chips will take care of that. Store your seed in a secure metal container (an aluminum trash can is ideal!) to keep it dry and pest free. Be sure to keep it out of the sun to prevent destruction of taste and nutrition. A high quality mix is also a great choice and attracts a variety of birds. Adding suet to the mix of foods you provide is very beneficial to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and other insect eating birds.
Lastly, please keep your feeders in good repair and clean. Feeders should be cleaned at least twice per year and make sure any perches or wire baskets are smooth and rust free to prevent any injuries to feathers and feet.
People often wonder if feeding birds will keep them from migrating or if feeders go empty will the birds be in trouble? Migration is triggered in birds by seasonal changes in day length, in both directions, so food availability may actually help them fuel up for their trip! Since birds typically get less than 25% of their nutritional requirements from supplemental feeding, it’s quite safe for your feeders to go empty for a while (although it does make their lives easier when they’re full!)
So, put up your feeder, fill it up, sit back and watch the show!