Looking After Our Feathered Friends

As we find ourselves in the depths of winter, it is important to remember to feed the birds. This month, Northumberland Master Gardeners would like to share some tips for creating a garden feeding area for the birds and some birdfeeding experiences they are having this winter.

Finches feeding on a platform feeder at dusk

There are a few things to keep in mind when designing your garden to include a bird feeding area.  First of all choose a place that is convenient to get to. You will have to fill the feeders, possibly, on a daily basis so convenience is all important. Also, locate the area where you can see it from your house. You will be amazed at the pleasure received from watching birds come and go at your feeder.  Be sure that there are a variety of shrubs and trees within 100 feet of your feeders so that the birds have a place to seek shelter if threatened by predators or a place to perch while waiting for their turn. While watching the chickadees, I notice they line up and come in one at a time to feed. We always add our discarded Christmas tree to the edge of the feeding area to add extra shelter during the coldest months of winter. Placing your bird feeding area on the south side of your house is a good idea as it tends to provide shelter from the cold north winds.

I recommend buying good quality birdfeed. Often the cheaper bags contain a lot of filler such as milo and white millet that the birds won’t even eat. Check the ingredients and look for a combination of sunflower seed, safflower seed, peanuts, corn and maybe a small amount of white millet.

A source of water in your feeding area is essential.  You can purchase a heated bird bath or bird bath warmer to keep a bit of water available all winter. A constant source of water will pay off by attracting some new species of birds to your yard.

Tanya Crowell shared this experience about feeding the birds in her garden:

“We are supplying 5 kinds of feed: safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, niger seeds, peanuts and suet. We have Woodpeckers coming to the suet and  Bluejays loving the peanuts. They grab them and take them away as fast as we put them out! Then we find their shells around the woods! Chickadees and Nuthatches enjoy the sunflower seeds. The Red Polls love the sunflower seeds as well although we have not seen them so far this year. I think it is too warm. Juncos and Doves clean up what is kicked out on the ground.  A few Cardinals have come, (Cardinals enjoy safflower, sunflower and even peanut pieces).   Around Xmas we had a whole group of Evening Grosbeaks. They loved the safflower but although we are still putting it out they are nowhere to be seen lately.

We have a metal wrap around the pole of the bird feeder and it generally works to keep the squirrels away except for one guy who has big arms and can haul himself up nonetheless! We have named him Evil Kneivel. Our only solution for his antics is to chase him away!”

A squirrel captured on Kat’s game camera.

Kat Kinch shares this bit of advice:

“Our wildlife/bird gardening has become positive action-packed since the discovery of a print in the snow caused by an owl touching down to capture prey caused us to buy a motion-sensitive, night vision game camera.  So far the owl has eluded us but we’ve been rewarded with many entertaining pictures of birds enjoying their moment in the spotlight.  Game cameras or trail cameras are usually marketed to hunters but placing them close to a feeder or at ground level where you regularly find tracks will give you lots of opportunities to see what happens in your garden when you are away from it and nature comes to call.”

A saucy  looking Cardinal captured on Kat’s Game Camera

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