Feeding birds during the middle of a chilly winter can be an easy and rewarding hobby. Whether you are a novice or experienced backyard birder, here are some suggestions to get the most enjoyment out of winter bird feeding.
First, think about your feeder, or should I say feeders since having a number of different birdfeeders available will attract the greatest number of bird species. Winter birdfeeders should all have several things in common. Winter feeders should have a wide cover over the feeding ports, perches, and dispensing trays to see they're is not buried during snowfall events.
Next, place the feeders in a sheltered location so the birds are not in severe winter winds. Placing the feeders close to the house can help provide shelter from the wind and can keep the birds visible for indoor bird watching. Keep the feeders at least five feet away from walls or windows to help prevent collisions. The birds will also like being near protective cover such as hedges or a brush pile. These offer birds safety from predators.
If you can protect your feeders from moisture, you can opt for larger feeders that reduce the number of times you need to refill them. If the seed is not protected from moisture it may grow mold before it is consumed. Mold, mildew, and other unhealthy conditions can foster disease among backyard bird populations. To help prevent this, discard soggy or icy seed and let the feeder dry before refilling. Feeders that get moldy can be sterilized with a 10 percent bleach solution. And, platform feeders should be emptied and refilled daily to prevent mildew and spoilage.
During the winter, birds are attracted to high energy foods. These are foods with a high fat or oil content such as sunflower seed, hulled peanuts, peanut butter, white millet seed, and suet.
Providing birds with clean, high energy food is a great way to add some interest to your landscape. I know everyone in my family - kids and cats included - love watching birds flock to the feeder.
Anne Lenox Barlow is the horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450; Essex County, 962-4810; and Franklin County, 483-7403. E-mail your questions to askMG@cornell.edu.