If you have never fed the wild birds, now is a good time to start. It’s fun and easy and relatively inexpensive to get started. All you have to have is some wild bird seed that you sprinkle on the ground, but it’s even more fun when you add a few birdfeeders.
Starting now is good, because with it being so cold, the birds need even more food to help them stay warm. They use extra energy to try to keep their bodies warmer, so they need the extra food. Also food is scarce for them outside, so the extra food we supply them is beneficial to help keep them alive.
Another thing to think about is also that this is the time of year when outside water sources for wildlife is frozen; so supplying fresh liquid water (and keeping it refilled or defrosted) is also quite helpful at this time of year.
Different wild birds feed from different areas. They also like different kinds of seeds. For instance, blue jays love peanuts. Finches and other small song-type birds enjoy thistle seed. Woodpeckers prefer to eat insects but also love suet cakes. Birds such as doves prefer to eat their food off of the ground or from ground feeders. Many other birds prefer their feeders hung up.
If you are feeding to attract a particular type of bird, you should do some research on what food they prefer, what kind they will settle for, what kind of feeder they prefer and where they like it placed. There are thousands of different types of feeders out there, ranging in price from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.
Wild About Birds, located on Route 26 in Ocean View, has thousands of choices, and the staff is very well trained on guiding you through the process. They carry all sorts of bird supplies and decorative bird items. They also carry various types of food. Their staff can assist you with information on which birds eat which foods and what style of feeder to use and where to place it.
The hardware departments of G&E and Hocker’s also have seed and feeders available. Fenwick Hardware is another place to purchase your feeders and feed supplies. You can also pick up feeders at some of your local discount stores, such as Dollar General, Walmart and others.
Warning: Feeding the wild birds can become quite addictive. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. Also, stopping makes it harder on the birds, because they have become accustomed to having food there and then it’s gone. They will eventually go find another source, so don’t feel that once you start you absolutely can’t stop. You can. However, you probably won’t want to stop.
Supplying a source of clean, fresh, liquid water is another plus for the birds. Remember that water freezes outside at this time of year, so check it daily and refill it often. An easy way to keep your feathered friends supplied with water at this time of year is to place a small container of water out every morning and bring yesterday’s frozen water in and allow it to defrost, then clean the container and have it ready to refill tomorrow.
Shallow plant saucers make excellent water dishes. You can place a small flat stone in the middle too. This helps to keep the dish from blowing away and also gives birds another perching place. Small shallow plastic food containers will also work. Leftover TV dinner trays will also work.
Of course, there are the larger bird baths you can buy, and they make special defrosters just for these baths. I, myself, like to use the larger birdbaths in the warmer times, and smaller dishes of water in the colder seasons, but that’s just me.
When you are shopping for your bird seed, make sure that it is fresh — especially if you are storing it in your home. Older bird seed can often have bugs in it, and when you open the bag and store it in your warm home, those ornery little bugs can wreak havoc in your home.
Depending on the size of your bird seed supply, you may need some where to store it. The best type of storage container is a stainless steel container. You should also keep your seed in their original bags inside of the stainless steel container. Use twist ties (there are probably some in your kitchen junk drawer) to secure your open bags before placing them into your storage container.
Check your feeders daily. Clean your feeders minimally monthly, but more often if needed. Clean them with warm soapy water and rinse them well and allow them to air dry. In warmer weather, you can leave them outside to be sun-bleached after cleanings.
So, head to your local store and get yourself some seed and a few feeders, then sit back and relax. It may take several days before the birds locate your feeders, but after a few days you will start to see a few birds and then the group will get larger and larger.
As you see more types of birds showing up, you can take pictures and research what their seed and feeder location preferences are, and then you can start adding to your feeder and seed selections. You will start to notice that some birds feed at the feeders and others will feed from the seeds dropped on the ground around your feeders. Do not place a ground feeder right under your hanging feeders, because that seed will become soiled from the birds above.
You can research your birds online. You can also pick up books from the library or your local bookstore to help with identification. Taking photos of your birds will aid in the process. Wild About Birds can also aid you in your identification process, and having actual photos makes it easier than you trying to describe the bird yourself.
If you really get interested in watching and identifying your birds, there are some local bird groups you can join. Many of these groups are more active in the warmer weather, but some do bird-watching year-round. Getting into contact with them now will mean you are ready when spring comes and courting and nest-building begins.
Remember, keep your feeders cleaned and filled. Make sure you buy fresh seed. And to attract more varied types of birds, supply different types of feeders and different types of seeds. And supplying clean fresh water is a real nice bonus for the birds. Other than that… Have fun!
Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with her bloodhound, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.