Bird watching is an activity that can be enjoyed by all age groups throughout the year. The birds provide entertainment through their antics (hummingbirds), brilliant plumage (bluebirds) and grace (herons). Whether beautiful, dowdy or bully, they contribute to our environment. With little effort on our part, we can ensure that all remain healthy and in return entertain us.
While weather is still nice it is time to prepare for their safe food, water and shelter sources. Repair, replace and add feeders that specifically meet the needs of each bird type as well as in general.
Each bird type has its food preference. Cardinal beaks are designed to break open seeds, such as sunflower. Woodpeckers need suet’s fat to provide energy through the winter. Bluejays like peanuts, but will eat everything that is available. Most birds eat corn only if that is all that is left.
Purchase only as much food as is needed for a short period to provide fresh food. Store in air-tight containers that have locks added to wildlife-proof them. Garages do not provide safe storage. Suet can be frozen and replaced as needed.
Each bird type has its feeder preference-platform and contained. Platform feeders allow for several types of seed at the same time and even a dish of water. They’re placed on the ground, posts, railings, etc. They are the easiest to clean, need holes for drainage, and attract all birds including predators.
When snow is on the ground, place a mat on the snow so that seed does not sink into the snow and germinate in the spring. Place hanging feeders at least 6 feet from trees and shrubs to protect birds from squirrels and predatory animals. Add a squirrel buffer on top of hanging feeders and underneath on pole feeders.
Platform birds include cardinals, doves, pigeons, sparrows, towhees, quail, woodpeckers, nuthatches, plus crows, starlings and grackles.
Enclosed or contained types cater to a specific bird’s food and feeding method — hoppers, hangers, tubes, suet holders. Hoppers release seed when weighted by a bird. Too many or heavy birds will drop a heavy bird or too many on the perch. Thistle or finch feeders hold tiny Nyjer seed that only finches can reach.
Sometime seed is added to suet. If the suet holder is on the bottom and hung on a heavy chain that allows it to sway back and forth, larger birds are less apt to try to get to the suet.
What ever bird(s) you want to attract, always buy the best seed you can afford. Cheap bird seed includes filler and corn that birds will not eat.
Join Cornell Lab’s annual winter-long annual feeder birds count. For more information on birds, feeders, and food, go to Project FeederWatch to learn what to feed which birds.
THINGS TO DO
• Garden — Plant tulips in-ground and in containers to force into bloom. Non-football fans, take advantage of Thanksgiving weekend to plant spring bulbs. Insert tongue depressors, plastic forks or knives to mark bulbs’ location so as not to plant on top of them.
• Houseplants — Decease fertilizing plants that do not bloom in winter. Keep cyclamen at 50-60 degrees, bright but not direct sun, moist soil and water with half-strength fertilizer.
When you purchase flowering houseplants, make sure that they are thoroughly wrapped to protect from the cold during transit. Rotate African violets and other flowering plants sensitive to light. Mist plants weekly. The exception is fuzzy-leaved plants, which do not like wet foliage.
• Trees — Prepare trees for winter. Deep water evergreens to prevent or at least reduce foliage and needles from drying out from winter winds. Place 18-inch high hardware cloth (wire mesh) fence around tree trunks to prevent damage from rodents. Dig a shallow trench around the trunk, place the fence in the trench, pin it in place with tent stakes and pack dirt at the base of the fence.
• Gifts — Botanical interests: garden-inspired cards, 100% recycled totes, coloring book (for you or your children), etc.
Visit Duncraft Wild Bird Superstore for feeders, baths, houses, seed, suet and treats, $7-150, duncraft.com, 888-879-5095.
Reach Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.