By Tom Hodgson
Some folks keep their seed feeders filled year around. I do not.
I take mine down in early April and exchange them for oriole and hummingbird feeders. The orioles left us in early September. I saw my last hummingbird a week ago.
The summer feeders are now cleaned at tucked away till next April and the winter feeders are up. It took the local birds about four hours to find them.
There are many varieties of seeds that local birds will eat, but I stick with just one, dark oil sunflower chips. I buy the coarse chips, the largest size. Chips are shelled sunflower seeds that all birds like. Because they are shelled, their husks are not left on the ground to kill the lawn. Sunflower husks contain a toxic substance that inhibits the growth of many plants.
I never buy the wild bird mix because it contains many seeds that are inexpensive but go uneaten. I also do not by the nyjer seed (also called thistle) because it is very expensive and the gold finches like the sunflower chips just as much. In fact, they prefer the sunflower chips in very cold weather because of their higher fat content.
In addition to seeds, I also provide suet, either in cake form or in a suet log. To make a suet log, cut a section of tree branch about 18-inches long and 3-or-4 inches in diameter. Use a power drill and an inch diameter speed bit to make a series of holes in the log and fill them with suet. I have included a picture.
Next put a hook or eyelet in one in of the log so you can hang it. Suet is available in commercially manufactured cakes or can be purchased raw (beef fat) from Country Market.
Woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice are especially fond of suet. The log allows woodpeckers to cling to the log in a natural way as they feed. Pre-made suet logs are available at local stores for a price.
Water is also important for winter birds, especially after the surface waters freeze. Several commercial models of bird baths and hanging bird watering devices are available that include a heater to prevent the water from freezing.
This may be a very interesting year for winter birds. I am already seeing some species that don’t come every year including red-breasted nuthatches and pine siskins. Juncos and tree sparrows should be here soon.
I am including a photo array identifying some of the common and not so common feeder birds to look for this year. A bird feeder is a good distraction during this Covid-19 year.