FALL IS FOR FEEDING!
Whether you’d like to admit it or not, summer is almost over and autumn is nearly upon us. Spring cleaning gets lots of attention, but for the backyard bird watcher, there’s just as much to do in fall as in spring. I’ve spent my last couple of days off cleaning my bird feeders. I like the anticipation of fall. Fall migration is almost always better than spring migration, we get more birds, and we get more unusual birds.
Setting up a backyard bird feeder can make birds’ lives easier, too. During winter months finding food can be challenging. Set up your feeder in a quiet place where it is easy to see and convenient to refill. The feeder should be close to natural shelter such as trees or shrubs, which offer refuge to birds as they wait their turn to feed. It may take a while for birds to find your feeder. Remember, birds are visual eaters. If no birds visit your feeder within a few days try sprinkling seeds on the ground nearby to make the feeder more obvious. If birds congregate nearby but just don’t come to your feeder, place a feed pile between the area where they are and the feeder. As the birds start to use the seed pile, move it closer and closer to your feeder.
Your choice of seed will determine the types of birds you get at your feeder. Black-oil sunflower seed is the hamburger of the bird world. Almost any bird that will visit a feeder will eat black-oil sunflower. Why do birds prefer it? The outer shell of a black-oil sunflower seed is thinner and easier to crack, and the kernel inside the shell is larger than other sunflower seed.
Is there such a thing as BAD mixed seed? You bet! Bad mixed seed can include dyed seed meant for pet birds, wheat, and some forms of red milo. Good mixed seed has a large amount of black-oil sunflower, peanut hearts, safflower, striped sunflower, fruit, and small amounts of whit millet.
Suet is also a great food for fall and winter feeding. Suet is mainly fat, therefore a high source of energy for the birds. Suet is particularly attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and bluebirds. Wrens, cardinals and some warblers will also visit your suet feeder.
Nyjer, or thistle seed is eagerly consumed by all the small finches – goldfinches, house and purple finches and pine siskins, a bird that will visit your feeder in the winter months. Thistle should be feed in a tube feeder with small holes or a thistle sock. A problem with thistle is that it does not stay fresh for long. I recommend buying thistle in small 5 lb. bags.
If you have a bird feeder in your backyard, you’re in good company. Bird watching is one of America’s fastest growing hobbies, and surveys show that nearly half the households in the United States provide food for wild birds. The appeal is obvious, by feeding birds we bring them close so we can see them more easily. Their company brightens up our lives, especially through the dreary days of winter.
Bird of the Month: Red-tailed Hawk
The Red-tailed Hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America. You only have to look up and chances are you will see a Red-tailed Hawk soaring overhead. Other times you will see them atop telephone poles, eyes fixed on the ground to catch the movements of a vole or a rabbit and even a squirrel. The Red-tailed Hawk has a raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. These beautiful birds are known for their brick-colored tails. The Red-tailed is one of the largest birds you will see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about 3 pounds. Red-tailed Hawks are monogamous and may mate for life. They make stick nests high above the ground, in which the female lays one to five eggs each year. Both sexes incubate the eggs for four to five weeks, and feed the young from the time they hatch until they leave the nest about six weeks later.