Winter bird feeding is in full swing in the Lost River Valley. Feeding wild birds in your back yard in the winter is not only a great opportunity to watch them from a comfortable setting, but can enhance their habitat during the sparse season. The lush berries and seed laden vegetation of fall have withered and blown away and most insects are either dead or dormant. Providing food for the birds can help them obtain the energy they need. This quick tutorial about birds and feeders can help you get started.
What Might You see?
As a winter bird feeder, I enjoy seeing my feathered friends that visit during the cold months. The Chickadee, Nuthatch, Titmouse, and Junco come back each winter to the same feeders. They let me know if they arrive before I start putting out the seed (or if I ever let any feeder get empty!). Year round my visitors include the Downey, Hairy, and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Blue Birds and Mourning Doves. On occasion I am blessed by a Palliated Woodpecker, Brown Creeper and even a Wild Turkey. Adding a never-before-visiting species is a highlight of my back yard feeder guestbook.
Choosing a Feeder
There are many ways to feed, some feeders serve a specific species, and others work for a wide variety of birds.
- Platform feeders serve a number of species, but are not a good way to keep the rain and snow from your seed in the winter time.
- Chalet and Hopper feeders are great for a wide array of birds and keep the seed covered. Chalet feeders that have “U” shaped perches provide more landing area. Hopper feeders offer the space needed for larger species, such as plump Cardinals, to stand and feed.
- Tube feeders work great for smaller species, such as the Titmouse and Chickadee.
- Suet and peanut feeders work great for birds like the Woodpecker and the Nuthatch because they like to cling while they feed
- Bluebird feeders utilize an enclosed platform feeder style with limited access.
Most every type of feeder can be purchased in a squirrel proof design or at the least, adding a baffle can help deter the squirrels. My set up is very minimal with a few hopper feeders with attached suet feeders, and a finch feeder or two.
Choosing the Food
In the spring, summer and fall, birds’ diets consist of insects and plants to meet their nutritional needs. When choosing winter food it is important to understand what they need to eat to stay healthy and try to supplement their diet by offering the proper type of nourishment. Doing so will reward you with birds of many shapes, colors and sizes.
- Suet is a great high energy food used to maintain the metabolism of insect eating birds. The Woodpeckers will go crazy over it. Try different brands, you’ll soon learn which ones your locals prefer.
- Peanuts provide protein and are another great way to keep the woodpeckers and other insect eaters.
- Black oil Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein and fat and serve a broad number of birds.
- Nyjer seed is the best way to attract the House Finches and Goldfinches. Certain tube feeders can convert from dispensing Nyjer feed to mixed seed and sunflowers with a simple rotation of the feed opening.
- Mixed seed is great to attract a wide variety of birds, especially if you get a mix that contains fruits and berries. However, this can be quite pricey. I usually mix a small bag of fruit mix in a larger bag of a basic mix. This is more affordable and keeps the fruit and berry lover coming back. This mix is also great for the ground feeders, such as the Juncos and Doves.
- Meal worms or Bluebird Nuggets are great for the Bluebirds and provide their metabolism with the protein they need.
- Fresh Fruits, such as oranges, apples, and grapes, as well as jams and jellies are a treat to many species.
Don’t forget to watch them! Keeping a pair of binoculars and a bird ID guide near the door or window with a view of your feeders is a great way to enjoy the fruits of your labor. I suggest the Birds of Kentucky field guide by Stan Tekiela; it is a great beginner guide for identifying the birds seen commonly in your yard. Keeping a guestbook journal is a great way of tracking your many visitors. Have fun!
And Don’t Forget….
Visit the Lost River Trails to see the feeder set-ups we have and then stop by Wildflower Gifts to take advantage of the great feeder selection and prices we offer to get started in your yard today.