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Bird feeding will increase our interest in nature and deepen our concern for the environment. By setting up feeding stations in our backyards, we begin in a very small way to be aware of and to understand the science of ecology. Whether permanent residents or winter visitants, birds will be attracted to your feeders by keeping them clean and well-stocked.
On the following pages you will find a description of several types of feeders, when to set them up, and how to maintain them. A word about the importance of water and a list of ingredients needed for the recipes that follow. These recipes are simple and easy to put together and will provide the warmth and energy that is needed during the cold winter months. They will attract and delight all the guests at your feeders.
The Feeding Station
Preparation should be made well in advance of the arrival of your winter guests. The time to begin setting up your feeding station is in the fall when birds begin to gather and migrate. Choose a site that is protected and easy to get to when there is snow on the ground. Three kinds of feeders should be used. Seed dispensers, suet containers, and ground feeders.
Seed dispensers come in many sizes and styles. Some are made for specific birds, large or small. They can be made of wood, plastic, or steel. Some can be attached to a pole or to your deck, while others are hung from a branch of a large tree. At least two seed dispensers should be used, one for wild bird seed mix and one for sunflower seed.
All of your guests will eat suet during the winter for energy and warmth.Several kinds of containers should be used. Netted bags and plastic-coated wire baskets are used by small clinging birds. Logs with holes at various points are perfect for woodpeckers and coconut shell halves are used by all.
Your feeding station would not be complete without ground feeders. Provide at least two. These can be wooden boxes or plastic containers about three inches deep with a screened bottom or holes drilled through the bottom for drainage. Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, and Juncos are ground feeders and they will appreciate this mode of fare. Add grit in the form of Parakeet gravel or clean sand as needed, especially after a heavy rain or a snowstorm.
The Secondary Feeding Station
Blackbirds, Grackles, Cowbirds, Starlings, and Crows can be aggressive and quite pushy in the company of small birds. However, they are nervous and suspicious of humans and prefer not to be too close to the house or your main feeders. Set up a ground feeder and a plastic-coated wire basket for suet and tidbits. The birds can be attracted to the feeder by scattering small pieces of white bread or cracked corn on the ground. These restless vagrants will drop in, have a snack, and before you know it, they are on their way.
Maintaining the Feeding Station
The key to a healthy bird population at your feeders is the maintenance of your feeding stations. Keep your seed dispensers clean and stocked with quality seed. After a rain, they can become clogged with wet, spoiled grains. Empty the seed dispensers, wash with a mild detergent, and dry with paper towels or a clean cloth, making sure all parts are thoroughly dry before refilling. Ground feeders should not be set up directly under seed dispensers, as bird droppings will contaminate the contents. Rake up and dispose of seed hulls in the area. With your stations well-maintained, you are assured of a successful bird feeding program.
The Watering Hole
Provide your guests with a place to drink and bathe--it can be as simple or as elegant as you wish. We've all seen birds drinking and bathing in a puddle. Try to duplicate this scene when setting up your watering hole.
There are three important facts to remember. Birds are afraid of bathing in water that is too deep, so the water in your birdbaths should be an inch to an inch and a half at the most.
The nearest tree, shrub, or fence should be three to four feet from the bath, as anything closer will provide cover for a lurking cat, and wet feathers can make a bird too heavy to fly a long distance.
Last, but not least, we all prefer to drink and bathe in clean, fresh water. Scrub your birdbaths every second day and fill with cool fresh water.