With summer officially behind us and cooler, wetter days ahead, now is a good time to make sure our feathered friends will have plenty of nutritious food and clean feeders in the coming months. Here are some tips for success:
Select bird feeders that are easy to clean! Feeders should be cleaned weekly or more often if necessary. Hot water, followed by a thorough drying, will take care of routine maintenance. If debris or mold has accumulated, a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach will remove and kill mold and bacteria. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and dry completely before refilling with fresh seed.
Birds burn more calories to stay warm in cold weather, so choose foods like black-oil sunflower, suet, peanuts and/or peanut butter for hanging feeders. Seed mixes containing millet, black-oil sunflower and other seeds are a favorite of ground feeding birds like juncos, sparrows, doves, towhees and the like. Shelled peanuts and hulled sunflower seeds will spoil quickly in wet weather because their protective shells have been removed. These foods are also more expensive so offering only what the birds will eat in 1-2 days keeps the food fresh and stretches your bird feeding dollar. It’s also tempting to fill large feeders to their full capacity, but unless the birds are emptying the feeder every day or two, even black-oil sunflower seed will become moldy if it sits too long in a feeder.
Winter bird feeding can often bring birds into your yard that would normally remain elusive. When we have snow on the ground at our home, Varied Thrushes spend their days feeding on suet pieces knocked on the ground by flickers and woodpeckers. I hope winter bird feeding brings many visitors to your yard. Photo by Mary Sinker.