Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Fall Backyard Tips to Help the Birds
October 10, 2015
By Steve Grinley

     With autumn’s crisp air upon us, I thought this would be a good time to offer you some tips to prepare your yard for birds in the months ahead:

     Sparrows have already begun to migrate. White-throated, white-crowned, and song sparrows may already be checking out your feeders. Soon tree sparrows and juncos will arrive for the colder months as well. If you are not offering white prozo millet at your feeders, now is a good time to start. Millet can be offered alone, or in a seed mixture, and can be spread on the ground where sparrows normally feed. For better viewing and to keep the seed dry, a platform feeder or tray is a better alternative. Keep an eye out for any unusual sparrows that may be missed in with a flock.

     If you have not been feeding suet all summer (and you certainly should), then now is the time to offer suet to your woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice. Suet is a great source of fat to help these birds survive the increasingly colder nights. Many other birds enjoy suet including bluebirds, Carolina wrens, or a wintering oriole or warbler. Peanuts are also high in fat and can be put out alone, or in a woodpecker mix or cake that will be welcomed by many cold weather birds.

     Leave the heads of your perennial flowers to go to seed as a source of food for goldfinches, house finches and chickadees. These birds enjoy the seeds of many backyard flowers including bee balm, black-eyed Susan, and coneflower.

     Clean out your nest boxes of material from the summer nesting season. Open the box and brush out the contents with a whisk broom or a glove. A clean nest box is an inviting winter roost for chickadees, nuthatches and bluebirds. Several birds will huddle together to keep warm on those frigid nights. If your nest box has a convertible front, switch the opening from the top to the bottom of the box to retain more heat. Also remember to clean the house out once more in March for early nesting.

     Most of the grackles and other blackbirds have left, but a few migrating flocks may still invade your feeders for a few days. You can choose to stop feeding for a few days in the hope that they will move on, or you can try putting out some cracked corn in a separate open feeder or on the ground to try to draw them away from your main feeding stations. The Squirrel Buster Plus or a caged tube feeder may be the best defense against blackbirds and will allow smaller birds to feed.

     If you are thinking about adding another pole for additional feeders, now is the time to plan that before the ground freezes. Also, as I mentioned last week, now is also a good time to add a heated bird bath, or add a heater to an existing bath for the cold months ahead. If you plan and execute backyard projects on these crisp October days, you will be prepared for the months and the birds ahead!

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