Make sure to include bird feeding and bird watching in your list of wintertime gardening activities. It's a myth that if you start feeding the birds in your backyard, you'll make them dependent on humans for food.
During the mid to late winter, natural food sources dwindle. Birds must work harder and fly longer to find sources of food. That's why backyard bird feeding helps local bird populations. It provides food at a time of year when birds really need a helping hand.
A few tips from the University of Maine's Cooperative Extension website regarding feeding backyard birds...
- Choose different types of feeders if you plan to hang more than one. Tray feeders, like the one above, are great for birds who peck their seed from the ground. Tube feeders provide perches for smaller birds like finches and sparrows to find seed. Suet block feeders support insect-eaters like woodpeckers and flickers. A variety of feeders will help the most birds, but even one feeder is appreciated.
- Keep feeders clean. Make sure to scrub them thoroughly before you put them away for the season. A mild bleach and water solution can be used to disinfect them.
- Add a variety of seeds to tube and other seed feeders. Black oil sunflower seeds appeal to many species of birds. A songbird mix provides a wide variety of seeds.
- Grow your own! Next year, add a row of sunflowers to your garden. The seeds are enjoyed during the blooming season but you can also dry the seeds to add to feeders during the winter. You can even dry the flower heads on the stalk, then hang them upside down from the stem in a tree to feed birds.
- Keep squirrels from feeders by hanging feeders on a thin wire between two trees. Squirrels can jump up to 20 feet, but a thin wire makes it difficult for them to reach a feeder. Squirrel baffles, or plastic shelves above and below the feeder, can also challenge squirrels and deter them from enjoying a banquet at your feeder.
- Place meal worms out for those birds who need an insect treat now and again. You can just place them on a tray for the birds.
- Make your own feeder. Take a stale bagel, smear it with peanut butter, press it into seeds and hang it with a cord from a tree. Instant bird and yes, squirrel feeder.
These and other backyard birding tips may be found on the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website.