Attracting winter birds to your home

Posted By | February 7, 2002 12:00 am

There’s nothing more delightful than watching birds flit from one area of your garden to the next.
Attracting birds to your yard is really quite simple: if you supply their three basic needs — food, shelter and water — you will have an avian oasis in your own backyard.
The experts at Garden Artisans, www.gardenartisans.com, offer these tips for enjoying birds in your backyard all winter long:
Food
In winter, the natural food supply for birds dwindles, and they become dependent on bird feeders for seeds and suet.
Although, there is debate about whether artificial feeding disrupts the migration urge of some birds, research shows this is not a significant concern.
For birds not strong enough to migrate due to injury or illness, or because of some undeveloped natural migration cue, your feeder may be what enables them to live through winter.
Also, for birds that do not migrate, winter storms can bury their food supply. When you add to that the natural condition of reduced time for foraging due to shorter days, winter is a real hardship for birds.
There are two ways to provide food: through bird feeders and by growing plants around your yard that offer fruits, seeds and a habitat birds love.
Black oil sunflower seed is the best seed
to attract a diverse group of birds to your feeder, including chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds and jays.
To attract insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches, offer suet in the wintertime, or cracked nuts, shelled and broken peanuts and bread crumbs.
Ground feeding birds like juncos, sparrows, towhees and mourning doves prefer cracked corn scattered on the ground or placed in an elevated tray.
Plants to add to your landscape include
serviceberry, dogwood, fir, hawthorn, sweet gum, crabapple, pine, coralberry and fruit-bearing viburnums.
Seed-producing flowers that will attract birds include aster, blanket flower, cone flower, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, California poppies, goldenrod, marigolds, phlox, salvias and zinnias.
Things to remember about feeders:
It’s nice if you can place the feeder so you can watch birds from a comfortable location, but also keep in mind their needs.
They need an escape route, so make sure you place the feeder near shrubs or evergreen trees so they can make a quick get-away.
Woody plants with thorns, such as roses or hawthorn, are helpful to birds because they provide refuge from predators such as house cats.
This can also help keep the feeders out of the rain and food dry.
– Keep your feeders clean to prevent diseases and deter pests.
Disinfect occasionally with one part chlorine bleach and nine parts lukewarm water and dry thoroughly before refilling.
– Once you start to provide food for birds, continue throughout the cold season. It’s best to provide only one type of food per feeder.
Birds feeding at feeders with mixed seed discard the seeds they do not want while selecting their favorites.
– Do not feed birds spoiled leftovers, salty snack foods or sugary cereals.
– Be sure to read package labels carefully to determine the exact ingredients of the bird food you purchase. Mixes that are high in fillers and less expensive cereal grains, such as red milo and wheat, may attract more common birds, but are unlikely to appeal to more colorful birds like finches, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, chickadees, buntings or cardinals. Premium wild bird feed, such as Lyric Supreme Wild Bird Food, attracts a wider assortment of colorful songbirds because it contains no fillers. Only gourmet ingredients, including safflower, black oil sunflower, peanuts, tree nut pieces, sunflower kernels, niger, white proso millet, small golden millet, cracked corn, canary seed and striped sunflower are used. Not only does this attract more birds, but it also means less mess and waste around the feeder and a better value for the money.
– If you want to attract specific birds try mixes created with them in mind. Lyric Cardinal, Chickadee, Finch and Woodpecker mixes are perfect examples.
– Mixes that are mess free, weed free and waste free, like Lyric Delite, appeal to gardeners who hate weeds growing in their beds. Since all of the ingredients are shell free, they will not germinate if they fall to the ground and there are no shells to cause a mess. Even better, all the ingredients are 100 percent edible.
– In addition to the actual ingredients, the product package is an important consideration since it protects product quality and taste. Lyric’s new cube packaging was designed to maintain product freshness, and it also deters pests and insects.
Shelter
Shelter can be provided in many ways, including bird houses or nest boxes.
As winter days grow longer after solstice, birds get ready to mate and nest, so it is time to start thinking about putting up a bird house or nest shelf.
Fall is a great time to shop for bird houses, remembering that many people you know would welcome a birdhouse as a Christmas present.
Choosing a bird house will depend on your goal.
Do you want a great looking garden ornament or are you looking to attract a certain type of bird?
All birds have their own particular preferences. For example, robins will not nest in an enclosed box, while wrens and bluebirds are attracted to single unit, enclosed bird houses.
One other way to provide shelter is with the types of trees and shrubs in your yard. For a list of shrubs and plants that attract birds to your yard, refer to the Garden Artisans’ February 2001 online newsletter.
Choose a feeder that offers smooth food flow with adequate openings so larger ingredients don’t jam up food openings. The Lyric Supreme Salt Box Feeder is designed for this purpose and is compatible with many bird species. If you’re interested in attracting a particular species of bird, look for a feeder that is designed specifically for it such as the Lyric Chickadee, Finch or Woodpecker feeders.
– Keep bird food fresh and clump-free. Always shake a feeder before refilling to ensure there are no clumps of spoiled food at the bottom. Pouring good food on top of bad increases bacteria growth.
– Keep the feeder and surrounding area clean to minimize disease and improve the food’s taste. Clean the feeders on a regular basis — at least once a season.
Soak tube feeders in a bucket of hot water and a 10 percent bleach solution, then brush them clean and allow to dry before refilling. Wooden feeders should be scrubbed with soap and water and then allowed to dry for at least half a day to be completely free of any moisture, which can spoil food.
– Keep feeders filled year-round for maximum activity. Late spring and early summer are especially critical times since young ones are hatching, which increases the nutritional needs of birds. If you’re hoping to watch baby birds being hatched, be certain that suet is included in your seed, such as that found in Lyric’s Supreme Suet ‘n Seed mix. Not only is suet one of the first foods that can be digested by baby birds, but it also provides a fast, high-energy meal for tired parents.
Things to remember about birdhouses:
– Face the entrance hole to the north or east to prevent the birds from overheating if summers are hot in your area.
– Mount bird houses on poles or posts rather than nailing them to trees or hanging them from limbs, making them less vulnerable to predators.
– Don’t put bird houses next to bird feeders.
– Clean your bird house yearly.
Water
While water is the least important of the three requirements, it can make a difference to the number of birds visiting your feeders.
If birds must fly long distances to find water in the winter, they may choose to stay near their water source rather than coming back to your feeder.
The easiest way to provide water is by maintaining your bird bath year round.
This could mean filling the bird bath several times a day, which is not always practical.
The easiest method is to have a heated bird bath.
Heaters are completely safe, but
make sure they have an automatic shut-off feature if the bath goes dry, which can happen on windy days or if there are too many birds drinking from the bath.
The plug must be attached to a grounded (three-pronged) outlet — preferably a ground fault interrupt (GFI) outlet.
This will eliminate the risk of electrical shock.
The heating element also should be covered in some way.
If yours is uncovered, it would be good to place a piece of shale over the top to prevent any birds from burning their feet.
In addition, birds will enjoy perching on the warm rock, especially the mourning doves.
– Maintain a fresh supply of water near your feeder. Just like humans, birds like a little something to drink with their meal. Keep in mind that the sound of water is what really attracts them, so consider adding a mister, dripper or re-circulating device to your baths for the greatest success.
– Provide adequate housing. The best way to attract migratory birds and keep them coming back is to provide housing. There is a serious housing shortage for cavity-nesting birds. You can help by putting out birdhouses. Lyric’s Custom Nest Box is the ideal solution and makes a wonderful gift for bird lovers.
To view a large selection of bird feeders and houses and to learn more about plantings to attract wild birds, hummingbirds and butterflies to your backyard, visit www.GardenArtisans.com and www.lyric birdfood.com.
Courtesy ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com, e-mail: info@ARAcontent.com

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