Backyard Bird Feeders

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Winter is a critical time for birds. Many gardeners enjoy feeding birds as a hobby the entire family can enjoy. The dull greys and neutrals of winter can transform into chatty corners of color, action, and feasting around choice feeders. Armed with a pair of binoculars within the comfort of your own home, consider brushing up on your bird ID and list the number of species seen this winter.

If you’re interested in setting up a feeder, different species have decerning palates so here’s a short menu for various diners:

  • Sunflower seeds: Northern cardinals, blue jays, black-capped and Carolina chickadees, house and purple finches, American goldfinches, evening and pine grosbeaks, gray and Steller’s jays, nuthatches, crossbills, and tufted titmouse.
  • Peanuts, suet, and suet mixes: Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and blue-jays) Blue jays also enjoy peanuts.
  • Small seeds like millet and niger thistle: dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, and golden-crowned sparrows. Niger thistle attracts pine siskins, house finches, purple finches, common and hoary redpolls, lesser goldfinches, and American goldfinches.

Don’t be afraid to use multiple feeder-types clustered together. Offer small seeds, large seeds, and suet. Aside from placing feeders close to a viewing window, the best feeder sites are at least 10’ from vegetative shelter provided by conifers, ornamental grasses, shrubs, or buildings. Most birds don’t like to venture far from cover so having a safe retreat and place to perch while opening seeds or resting is something to consider from the bird’s standpoint.

Birds are most likely to feed early morning and at dusk. If birds haven’t visited for a while check feeders periodically for mold if seed has gotten damp or been sitting out for a long time, reducing the quality. It may be as simple as refreshing with a new batch of seed. Feeding winter birds is a great way to brighten a dreary winter day and a never-ending source of entertainment. You’ll become familiar with your regulars and possibly be rewarded with visits from less familiar birds that may test your ID skills. For more information contact Extension Agent, Aimee Colf at Anson Cooperative Extension at 704-694-2915.