Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Caring for Our Bird Friends in the Winter by Molly Niven

Pygmy Nuthatches, the authors favorite
Do you want to attract birds all winter long? Regulars at our house in Golden Gate Canyon at about 8,800’ include:  Cassin’s finches, house finches, and (in the shoulder season) brown capped rosy finches; mountain and occasional black capped chickadees; dark-eyed and slate colored juncos; pygmy nuthatches (my favorite!), pine siskins, and red crossbills; hairy and downy woodpeckers; Steller’s Jays, Northern (Red Shafted) Flickers, Clark’s Nutcrackers, magpies and common ravens.  That’s a start!

o   Landscape with plants that produce berries, seeds and nuts.  Delay garden cleanup until spring, leaving seed heads on flowers.
o   Put out a variety of feeders: suet, large and small seed feeders.  If you are going to put out just one feeder, make it a sunflower seed tube feeder.
o   Favorite food:  black oiled sunflower seeds are at the top of the list for most birds.  Add striped sunflower seeds for large beaked birds and millet for small beaked birds.   Finches love niger seed, but these require a special feeder.   Most birds discard milo, wheat and oats but beware, rodents love these.
o   Try a homemade suet feeder (1” deep and 1” diameter holes in a log).
o   Make your own suet:  one part peanut butter, four parts cornmeal, and one part vegetable shortening or lard.  Add seeds, nuts and dried currents.  Suet and nuts provide protein.
o   Clean your feeders at least once a year with a 10 percent bleach solution-one part bleach to nine parts water to ward off salmonella and other diseases.
o   Create a microclimate around your birdbath to keep the water from freezing or build a solar birdbath.  An electric stock tank heater in a shallow dish of clean water or a heated birdbath will work. 
o   Keep water away from food so droppings, seeds and hulls do not contaminate it.
3.      PROVIDE PROTECTION from the elements and predators
o   Wind blocks include landscaping, woodpiles, stonewalls and other man made structures.
o   A variety of shrubs, deciduous and conifer trees provide perches, cover and nesting areas. 
o   Keep your house cats indoors – EVEN those with bells!  Cats account for about 30 percent of birds killed at feeders.
o   Glass windows cause more than one billion bird deaths every year.   BirdSleuth at Cornell Ornithology Lab says the best bet is to install a taut, small-mesh net or screen (a net 5/8” in diameter works well) at least 3 inches from the glass.  Little success is had putting bird images and other decals on your windows.  When a Northern pygmy owl crashed into our kitchen window, I vowed never to wash my windows again!
o   Bring your feeders in at night until bears go into hibernation!

Read more:
·         http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1702.html     CSU Plant Talk/Fact sheet: Attracting birds
·        .ebird.org     The ‘go to’ web site for learning about birds sponsored by Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
·         http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/backyard/backyard0001.html  “The Winter Banquet” by Stephen Cress
·         www.birdsource.org    to find out everything you need to know to get started, from buying a feeder to selecting seed to identifying birds.
·         http://www.gardenfrog.org/  Front Range Organic Gardeners has a great plant list to attract birds and butterflies and wildlife

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