Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Prepare Bird Feeders for Fall
September 17, 2021
By Steve Grinley
Autumn officially starts next Wednesday, so now is a good time to think about reassessing your bird feeding program. Whether you feed all year long, or just during the colder months, now is the time to ready your feeders for the fall and winter seasons. With Covid still with us, more people are staying home and bird feeders add to the enjoyment of your home and yard. Though bird seed prices have been creeping up, feeding birds is still a relatively low cost hobby and offers a great return in entertainment value.
For those that don’t feed the birds all summer, readying the bird feeders for winter becomes one of those fall projects that you add to “the list”. Depending on what else is on that list, the birds may fall to a low priority and feeders won’t be up until the first snow flies. By then, however, the ground is often too frozen to put in another pole if one is needed to hang the feeders. Then you have to settle with hanging a feeder from a tree or somewhere where you may not see it so well from inside the house on those frigid days. Planning the position of your feeder stations now will optimize your enjoyment of them later.
Another advantage of starting to feed earlier in the fall, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, is that you are likely to catch some interesting migrants on their way south. Migrating hummingbirds and orioles, as well as occasional rose-breasted grosbeaks and indigo buntings may stop to refuel. You make also be visited by white-throated, white-crowned or fox sparrows as they move through.
Fall is also a good time for unlikely visitors to make an appearance. Many immature birds wander out of their normal ranges. Look for dickcissels, varied thrushes, or yellow-headed blackbirds during autumn. Check those feeders carefully, because you never know what might show up!
You may also catch the early arrival of wintering birds from up north. Juncos, pine siskins and redpolls are possible at feeders. Flocks of evening grosbeaks might show up again this year. All the more reason to have your feeders cleaned, filled and ready.
Speaking of clean, I can’t emphasize enough the need to keep feeders clean throughout the seasons. If you have feeders up but haven’t cleaned them in a while, you best add that to your project list. It is all too easy for seed left in a feeder too long to breed bacteria that will harm the birds. If seed goes bad, birds will stay away.
The wet summer season that we have had raised havoc with feeders. The wetter the season, the more often feeders should be emptied, cleaned thoroughly, and refilled with fresh seed. The regular cleaning of feeders will keep birds attracted to your yard.
If you are thinking of adding new feeders, position them when you can view them from the house – important for the colder days ahead. You can place them on a pole with a squirrel baffle in the yard. Position them near cover that the birds can use, but far enough away from where squirrels may jump or cats may lurk. A bracket that mounts next to a window or clamps onto a deck will bring a squirrel proof feeder closer for easier viewing. A window feeder mounted on the glass or on your sill will bring birds even closer.
Several different feeders with different seed will bring the greatest variety of birds. Sunflower and mixed seed feeders attract the widest variety of birds. A thistle feeder will lure goldfinches, house finches and other winter finches. Adding suet, peanut butter or fruit will attract other birds.
So plan your bird feeder projects now before the winter chill sets in, and before your neighbors get a jump on “your” birds!