Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Add Bird Feeders To Fall Projects
September 20, 2008
Steve Grinley

     Autumn officially starts on Monday, 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 gas prices so high, more people are staying home and bird feeders add to the enjoyment of your home and yard. Though bird seed prices have also risen, 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, blue grosbeaks 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, crossbills, pine siskins and redpolls are always possible at feeders. 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 learn to stay away. The wet summer season that we 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 at least once a month 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 – that’s what makes it fun. You can place them on a pole in the yard near cover that the birds can use, but far enough away from where squirrels may jump. A bracket that mounts next to a window or clamps onto a deck will bring a feeder closer for easier viewing A window feeder mounted on the glass or on your sill will bring them even closer. Unless you get one of the feeders that is squirrel-proof (there are a few that work better than most), then you should add a good baffle to help deter squirrels.

     Several different feeders with different seed will bring the greatest variety of birds. Adding suet, peanut butter or fruit will attract other birds. Water is also very important, especially during the winter months. A heated bird bath provides fresh drinking water for birds in winter when natural sources are frozen and it will draw many grateful birds to your yard.

     So plan your bird feeder projects now before the winter chill sets in, and before your neighbors get a jump on “your” birds!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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