If the world just outside your home is a little too quiet and still these days, there’s a way to fix that. Put up a bird feeder…. or two…. or more.
February is National Bird Feeding Month, as established by an act of Congress 27 years ago. This special focus couldn’t come at a better time for the birds. Most of the dried berries and flower seeds from last summer’s garden have been gobbled up, but there’s still plenty of cold weather ahead, so the birds could use a little help.
Why not take a cue from our cats? They already know that watching birds at feeders can be endlessly fascinating. So let’s a look at just a few ways to invite these lovely feathered creatures and their sweet songs into our winter landscapes.
Matching the food and feeders to the birds
One close look at the beaks of the birds in our area tells us that different birds are going to eat different types of seeds. Tagawa’s has a variety of seed to fit every need. On the top, a seed mix, to the right, black oil sunflower seeds, and remarkably tiny thistle on the left.
Perhaps the simplest approach to backyard bird feeding is to offer a seed mix that will attract a variety of birds. Most mixes will include combinations like black oil sunflower seed, safflower seed, white millet, and sunflower chips… a little something for everyone.
Tube feeders are the easiest way to offer this kind of seed mix. This feeder in my backyard attracts chickadees, jays, finches, and sparrows, along with ground-feeding doves and other scavengers. Magpies visit, too, but they struggle to hold on to the short perches and end up spending most of their time on the ground cleaning up spilled seed.
Offering only black oil sunflower seed is definitely an option. The seeds are full of rich oil and protein that are especially nourishing as a winter diet. The black oil seeds are much smaller than the striped sunflower seeds we pop as snacks, and they have a thin shell that’s easy for smaller birds to open.
If you choose to specialize a bit…
Finches are some of the most beautiful birds we can hope to invite to our homes. Their early-spring show of color can be stunning! And finches love thistle!
A simple sock feeder is the easiest way to offer this tiny seed. Tube feeders with especially tiny holes work for thistle, too. It’s well worth inviting finches to your home now, in hopes of seeing the males begin to show off their bright plumage once spring arrives.
Suet: a great fuel to fight the cold
Suet cakes are an excellent way to offer a special feast for birds with diets that depend heavily on insects during warmer weather. The compressed cakes are made of rendered animal fat mixed with other “side dishes” like seeds or peanut butter or even bugs.
I especially love watching the downy and hairy woodpeckers perform their acrobatics as they cling to a swinging suet feeder and eat their fill. Suet will also attract beautiful jays and flickers. Magpies will often get into the act, too.
Fresh water is critical
It’s easy to focus on what our backyard birds need to eat, but forget that they need to drink, too. Birds of all sizes need fresh clean water, even in the dead of winter. Eating snow isn’t at all an option.
Tagawa’s carries energy-efficient bird bath heaters that will keep a few inches of water just above freezing, which is all the birds need. Aside from water for drinking, many birds will put on an entertaining show when they decide that despite the cold, a nice bath is just the thing!
Some parting thoughts…
To keep the birds safe, mount or hang bird feeders at least five feet off the ground where they can see potential threats like cats. Setting the feeders within five to ten feet of trees or shrubs can give them a safe refuge if danger approaches.
Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month with a 5% bleach solution and allowed to dry thoroughly before refilling with fresh seed.
If seed gets wet, it should be discarded. Moldy seed can make the birds sick.
Tagawa’s Seed Shack is loaded with a wide variety of pre-packaged bird seed and seed mixes. Many seeds are also available in bulk, so you can purchase as much or as little as you choose.
We also have feeders of every shape and size, just perfect for helping you to create a wild bird buffet in your own yard!