Attracting birds to your yard and feeding them is lots of fun. In the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac, freelancer Glenn Morris offers some great tips and ideas on how to attract these feathered friends to your backyard. Here are a few hints from the article:
Seasonal Comings and Goings
Our suburban landscape of fragmented woodlands and landscaped yards is a man-built habitat that favors some birds more than others. Northern cardinals, multiple sparrows and assorted finches thrive in neighborhoods. So, too, do raucous blue jays and glib mockingbirds.
Wherever you live–north or south, suburb or farm, forest or field– some birds stay in one place and some move around with the seasons. No surprise, since nearly 75% of the more than 800 species of birds that nest in North America exhibit some migratory behavior. By providing food and cover, you can establish a fairly steady population of avian visitors. Some may be encouraged to stay that otherwise would not.
For example, homeowners that feed the northern cardinal may be encouraging it to expand its range farther north. Because the cardinal is a ground feeder, supplemental food may be offsetting the reduction in natural food caused by prolonged snow cover.
The More You Feed, the More You See
Year-round feeding provides a chance to see all the players: the summer birds before they migrate, and the winter birds that hang around. If you only feed in winter, natural migration will whittle down the list of birds at leaf fall, particularly where winters are harsh. The winter holdovers in the Midwest and Northeast are similar.
Migration brings the Southern States more birds in winter. The rose-breasted grosbeak and the cedar waxwing are two birds frequently seen in the South during winter, but not in other seasons. Feeders north and south alike are likely to have “regulars,” those birds that appear whenever seed fills the feeder or spills onto the ground. Among these are:
Remember, a Bird Feeder Is Serendipity
There’s a lot of downtime (pardon the pun) to feeding birds. The novelty wanes as regulars become routine. That’s when something, like an iridescent indigo bunting or a drop-dead-gorgeous orange and black Baltimore oriole, comes along “I spotted her midday and ran outside with half an orange,” recalled birdwatcher Bryan Morris, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Orioles love oranges, but they like grape jelly more. Morris switched and the birds became regulars. “They pop up like third graders–jelly all over their beak,” he added.
Unexpected arrivals are the blessing of feeding birds and the reason why checking the feeder frequently becomes a habit.
Bird Feeder Basics
Feeders: Choose a tube feeder with side perches and a base tray or a squirrel-resistant hopper feeder. Finch feeders have tiny openings suited for nyjer seed, finches’ preferred food. Suet feeders are wire baskets that hold a cake of suet. Hummingbird feeders are containers for sugar water, with small openings for the bird’s beak.
Placement: Locate feeders where you can see them. To minimize bird and window collisions, place feeders within 3 feet of, or more than 30 feet beyond windows. Be sure they are at least 6 to 8 feet from trees or tall shrubbery. Mount or suspend feeders a minimum of five feet above the ground on poles with squirrel baffles.
What to Feed: Black oil sunflower seeds and white millet are the best for birds. Use nyjer seed in finch feeders. Commercial suet cakes of rendered beef fat work fine. (Squirrels avoid red pepper suet, but it does not bother birds.)
For more tips on attracting birds to your backyard, read the rest of this article in the 2011 Farmers’ Almanac.