Caring for the Birds
The birds are back in town. They packed their bags and started to head up north about a month ago and it appears they have just arrived on the northeast seacoast, chirping and showing off their colorful feathery adornments as if they were attending some sort of royal wedding.
There is something so relaxing and enjoyable watching them fly about, swooping down for seeds and catching the next wind powered thrill ride. It’s engaging noticing all the different species and colors and realizing the bird seed packaging was right after all; different seed varieties attract different types of birds. And, all along I thought all bird food was the same. In investigating the whole bird feeding and nesting thing I learned a few things. I can’t wait to get some more bird feeders and welcome these new additions to my backyard.
Why you want to attract birds to your yard
Beyond the obvious aesthetic and musical reasons, birds offer many interesting advantages:
Birds help keep insects away and that’s good news for anyone who likes to spend time outside
If you have a garden, birds are great at picking off interlopers that disturb gardens, this means less hours weeding for you and no nasty insecticides.
Don’t take the feeder down come winter, a well positioned feeder helps them survive when food sources are scarce in more urban areas.
Lets talk about birdhouses
There are two dozen species of cavity-nesting birds birds in North America, these birds prefer to find a hollowed out tree or a birdhouse to settle into. Natural nesting cavities are often harder to find in urban and suburban areas so birds hope for bird houses in order to survive. Though birds can be picky, they won’t just take any hand-out. Orientation, internal size and entry-hole all play an important role in their choosing a place to nest.
Posting poles are the best place to attach a birdhouse to. This discourages rodents or cats from getting to it. Post wrapped with sheet metal or a length of stovepipe will provide extra protection.
Make sure to face the entrance hole away from prevailing wind to protect young birds from rain and cold winds.
And once nesting season is over, usually towards the middle of summer, though you can wait till fall to be sure, clean out your birdhouse to prevent mites and rodents from moving in and prepare for next season’s birds.
Different Styles of Bird Feeders
Hummingbird Feeder Comes in glass or plastic with small holes in which the hummingbirds stick their beaks into to reach the liquid nectar. (Red dye is not necessary, we use it in our photo to show off the detail of the glass bottle.)
Tube Feeder A long hollow tube easily filled with bird food. This style comes in different sizes for various different types of birds. Seed stays protected in tube and only comes out on bottom so squirrels can’t get to the seed.
Platform Feeder A flat and open feeder which makes it really easy to fill with seed or other larger foods such as nuts and fruits. These feeders are sometimes offered with a cover to protect seed from light rain. Though several birds at once can enjoy this feeder it also makes it easy for non-birds to get at.
Suet Feeder A wire cage which holds suet blocks. These are great when the weather is cooler as suet is made from fat and will melt in warmer weather. Melted lard will go rancid and also attach to the under bellies of birds and potentially transfer to the nesting eggs, this prevents oxygen from reaching the baby chicks. The same goes for serving birds peanut butter. Suet can be store bought or easily made at home as can peanut butter pinecones, though both are best as a winter project.
Mesh Feeders Also make for a fun at home craft. Wire, plastic or fabric mesh holds the seed which the birds pull through the mesh holes.
Where to Hang your Bird Feeder
Hang your feeder on the south side of your house if possible. Protected from wind and usually the sunny side of the house which is what the birds like best.
Protected areas like a bush or hedgerow are good spots to place your birdfeeder, especially the ones on poles. Birds are attracted to brush piles so make a pile of fallen branches if a bush is not possible.
Hang your feeder high enough to deter animals like cats from getting at it but make it easy enough for you to reach for filling and cleaning.
Hang your bird feeder where you can see it to enjoy the birds, as well as know when it is time to fill.
Hang or place your feeder no closer than 3 feet to the closest window. Also, be careful of windows without panes because birds may fly directly into the window. It is best to hang something like a decal or other ornament to prevent this.
A little - bird feeder- house cleaning
It is best to clean once a month, remove any contents and wash it with mild dish soap mixture. Dry thoroughly before refilling.
Toss out any wet or moldy seed, this can cause bacterial growth and make the birds sick.
Remove seed hulls and other debris under feeder to keep other animals away.
Feeding the birds
Seed Blends – all seed blends with no fillers (like Milo and wheat, which bird-feeder-birds won’t eat) are the best for attracting a wide range of birds.
Suet Dough is best in warmer weather since it won’t melt like other suet. Perfect for bluebirds, mockingbirds, nuthatches, peckers, chickadees, and wrens.
Hummingbird and Oriole Nectar – Buy high calorie nectar that active hummingbirds need to sustain their energy. Stay away from dyes and additives.
Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and bring to a boil to kill any bacteria
Cool mixture and fill feeder
Store extra sugar water in refrigerator for later use
Red dye should not be added
Peanut Butter and Jelly for the birds
Peanut butter is a nutritious offering for the birds but best when given to them in the colder months. Soft peanut butter can stick to bird’s mouths but adding a bit of cornmeal will make it grittier. Make sure to clean out your feeder to prevent bacteria from growing. Stay away from suet and peanut butter that will become soft and oily in warmer weather. Oils attach to the birds underbelly feathers, and when nesting will clog the pores of their nesting eggs.
Cape May Warblers, Orioles and catbirds have a sweet tooth and can be enticed by a little jelly. Just offer a small amount because it gets sticky especially in warmer weather and little birds can get mired in it. Adult birds enjoy snacking on the jelly while looking for insects, but keep an eye that they are not bringing their young by for a taste too often. A tiny, tiny amount is sufficient.
Other good bird resources: