Providing for Splashes of Color and Life

by Brian J. Horst / Sales Associate

 As colder weather sets in, our feathered friends get the feel of winter in their bones and begin to head for warmer climates. But as you know, not all birds head south. It’s a wonderful design of God’s to allow these simple yet beautiful creatures to remain with us during the long, cold, days of winter, adding splashes of color and life to our landscapes. “Birding,” a hobby of many outdoor enthusiasts, is for anyone who loves observing birds in their natural habitats. Backyard bird feeding and watching can be breathtaking as some of nature’s most beautiful sights and sounds are brought right outside your window. Two things happen when cold days set in. (#1) The birds’ calorie requirements increase. (#2) Their natural calorie sources disappear, such as insects, seeds, tree buds, and wild fruit. Now that sounds like a predicament, doesn’t it? But because of this, birds are instinctively searching for winter food sources right now. They aren’t waiting until there is a blanket of snow covering everything to decide where their winter hotspot will be. Neither should you be waiting! Saying “yes” to the hobby of birding means starting right now as well. You can start feeding your birds anytime of the year! But autumn is an especially important time to be feeding your feathered friends.  It is the time of year they are searching for reliable food sources. And they will remember you if you are supplying them with tasty morsels in your backyard. People who wait to begin feeding the birds until the weather is severe often miss out on having them revisit their backyard. Don’t miss this winter delight! Now is the time to have your birdfeeders filled full. But then come the questions… What foods should I use? Is there any particular feeder that is better than another? How do I attract certain birds? Following are 5 tips that you will find both informative and helpful as you embrace the hobby of birding. 1. Use foods that have a high calorie, high fat content. The birds will appreciate you for this. Their bodies need an intake of high metabolic foods during the winter to help them survive the freezing temperatures. Two excellent foods for this are black oil sunflower seeds and suet. Black oil sunflower seeds are a popular food item for a grand variety of birds including cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, and purple finches. Black oil sunflower seeds are the best sunflower seeds to use because they have higher oil content than the striped sunflower seeds. Suet is a solid fat product from beef or venison that provides concentrated energy. To attract different birds, experiment with using different foods such as nyger seed, safflower seed, peanuts, white millet, or salt crystals. Also surprise your birds with treats such as mealworms and chopped or dried fruits. Acceptable fruits that will be well received are chopped apples, orange wedges, banana slices, halved grapes, or melon rinds. 2. Provide unfrozen water. Oftentimes one of the hardest things for birds to come by in the winter is a source of fluid water. Offering water will be a sure attraction to the birds flitting through your backyard. Make sure you replenish the supply daily. A small de-icer or a heated birdbath may be necessary to keep the water thawed. 3. Start out with a hanging tubular feeder. Trust me… there are not a few bird feeders. There are birdfeeders designed for the varying weights of birds. There are ground feeders, platform feeders, hopper feeders, suet feeders, feeders for different seeds, etc. I would encourage you to simply get started with a hanging tubular feeder, and fill it with black oil sunflower seeds. This has been known to be an effective combination in attracting a large number of birds to backyards. To attract a variety of birds, experiment with different styles of feeders and place them at various locations. Some higher, some lower, closer to the house, or farther from the house. 4. Provide a safe and clean environment for the birds. While you will want to place your feeder in an open location where you will be able to observe the birds, make sure that the feeder is not too far removed from tree cover. This will allow the wild birds to scout out the area before they come in for a landing, and it will help them to feel secure while they are feasting at your banquet feeder. Also take measures to prevent your birds from experiencing window collisions. Measures you can take from the interior would be installing blinds or shutters and keeping them partially closed or slightly angled so as to cut back on reflection. Reflection is a primary cause for birds crashing into your windows in the first place. Placing your houseplants in locations other than your windowsills will keep your feathered friends from being fooled into thinking that they see a place of shelter or food. Some exterior measures you can make would be placing planters at the base of your windows to provide a place for them to land before they fly into a window. Installing screens is another exterior measure you can make. Screens not only cut down on reflection but also provide cushion if the bird does happen to fly into the window. Another thing you can do to protect your birds is to remove the hiding places of cats. Cats love to sneak up on birds. So do your birds a favor and place your feeders in a secure location. And above all keep the feeders free of debris or wet, moldy food. 5. Use binoculars and a backyard bird guide. These tools will help to make your birding experience fun and educational. You will also find it interesting to keep a written list of all the birds that have visited your backyard and that you have been able to identify. If you have children living with you, you will definitely want to involve them in this exciting venture. If you are into photography, having your camera close by would be a wise idea. You never know when you will see that once-in-a-lifetime scene that would make a WOW picture! We here at Tussey Mtn. Mulch Landscape Center are dedicated to making your dream of birding become a real experience for you. Whether it is supplies that you need or questions you have, call on us and we will help you out. We have a variety of feeders, seeds and suet in stock. Also, if your backyard is bare and boring, and you wish to add shrubbery or trees, all of our Nursery Stock is 50% OFF from now until the end of the year. Remember birding is something that is easy to do and does not consume a lot of time or money. And it’s helping to provide life for nature’s creatures! Have fun birding this autumn, winter… and for the rest of your life!