Vary the Bird Feeders and Food for Hours of Bird Watching Pleasure
To draw many birds a platform bird feeder is the best, but if you want to maximize the birds' feeding pleasure, it doesn't cost much to cater to their specific tastes with a variety of key feeders. Place the feeders where the seed can stay dry or find feeders with roofs to avoid spoilage. If you are going to hang them from poles, definitely get squirrel baffles. If you plan to hang them from a wire between trees, use something like fishing line, which is too thin for agile and determined squirrels to tightrope across.
Nyjer Seed Sock or Tube Feeders
Finches and nuthatches will go for a $5 - $8 sock that holds nyjer seed, which is ideal for those who want to avoid broken seed shells and weeds. Or you can buy a more eye pleasing wire mesh cylinder with a little roof to hold nyger. Tube feeders generally accommodate small birds, but I have seen flickers and jays occasionally work to hang on and pry seeds out.
Suet and Nut/Fruit Bars
Woodpeckers and a number of songbirds will enjoy a fruit or nut/seed imbedded suet placed in a square wire-hanging cage. They need the fat for the winter months. Suet can turn rancid during hot summer days, so it would be better to use a little peanut butter mixed with corn meal, seeds and nuts when it gets warm. It could be fun for the kids to stuff the mixture into pinecones and hang them with string from tree branches. We placed one on our platform feeder and only the flickers have eaten from it. There are also hanging woodpecker bars, which are compressed blocks of nuts, seeds, fruit and corn. If you have wood siding, I wouldn't feed the woodpeckers, however. They will be tempted to peck and hunt for insects wherever wood is found.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
The one food that will please the most birds is black oil sunflower seed (no stripes). So if you want to be simple and maintain a fairly clean yard, buy a large bag of hulled black oil sunflower seeds and place them in a cedar hopper feeder with a squirrel baffle on each side. When weight heavier than a few birds presses on the side bars, the feeder closes off access to the food. A hopper is large enough to accommodate a variety of birds and dispenses the seed gradually.
Window feeders can be fun because they allow you to view birds up close. Place them high enough where a squirrel can't reach the seed or chew on feeders from the window ledge. Get a nice one with a top that is easy to remove for refilling.
What I feed my Birds
I like to give birds a mix of black oil sunflower seed, white millet, safflower seed, chopped peanuts, cracked corn, nyjer seed, suet, raisins and chopped apples. I am still experimenting. I like using binoculars to watch the flickers eat apples because they stick their narrow tongues out after swallowing a piece as if they are savoring the flavor. The jays like the peanuts and the occasional cracked corn or apple slice (below). Almost all the birds like the black oil sunflower seeds. The sock filled with nyjer seed took a few weeks to get noticed, but now the finches love it.
Avoiding Window Collisions
To help prevent birds from hitting your windows, either position feeders over 10 to 15 feet from your house, hook feeders beneath the overhang or break up window reflections. On the outside of your windows you can place stickers, loose netting, branches or whatever works to break up sky reflections that blind birds to the existence of glass.
Breaking up reflections is especially important with large windows that are near feeders. In a panic to escape a perceived threat, sometimes a group of birds will disperse without taking time to figure out if a window is passable or not. It was during a group panic flight that two birds hit our sliding glass door and lay stunned on our deck with eyes blinking for a few minutes. My husband stood watch to make certain a cat didn't get near them and they flew off on their own after awhile.
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