National Bird Feeding Month (Part 3)
Water is available in Little Cedar Creek within one hundred feet of feeders at Ody Brook. I do not provide additional water near the feeding area. Heat probes are sold to keep birdbath water from freezing and available for wildlife. It is a nice benefit for people to have liquid water viewable from the house as an added opportunity for bird watching.
Principle food choices were described in the last Nature Niche article but a broader variety is available and offers valuable options to benefit birds and you. I suggest people focus on benefits for birds but some friends contend bird feeding is to bring birds into view for our pleasure. Whatever your motivation, it can be beneficial for birds and humans.
Finches in particular like thistle seeds so placement of a feeder in close view is desirable. You may not have a good tree or sturdy eve for hanging a feeder, but steel shepherd’s hooks can be placed in the ground and come with varying numbers of hooks. In winter we hang feeders and in summer hang flowerpots on them for year round enjoyment.
Peanut butter is favorable for birds like cardinals and woodpeckers but squirrels find it great. Place peanut butter in a two-foot long two-inch wide log with recessed notches that have been drilled about a half-inch deep. It is good to have a rough surface for birds to grip or even better to place dowels below the feed cavities for easy perching.
People asked when should hummingbird feeders be taken down. The best response is before they freeze. Hummingbirds migrate and people suggest that some will stay too long and die if feeders are kept available. Experts suggest this is not true. Keeping hummingbird feeders available to December may help late or misdirected migrators. Unexpected hummers show up during migration season. We observed a western Rufous Hummingbird at a feeder on the last day of December during a Christmas Bird Count. It was visiting the feeder for a couple weeks prior to our viewing.
Locally, Penny Folsom raises mealworms and places them on a platform feeder for Eastern Bluebirds. The bluebirds appreciate the special gift of protein. There are those that think animals cannot be appreciative or experience emotion. After observing feathered neighbors many of us have learned that they have greater depth than some may be willing to accept. Pet owners know the animals they live with experience joy and sadness. Birds also have greater capacity for feelings and learning than some people are willing to accept.
Cracked corn is a favored ground feed. Choose finely cracked corn and add white proso millet. This will attract more ground feeding birds but may draw European Starlings and House Sparrows as well. I try to discourage non-native species by not using ground feed and am quite successful with our yard landscape and choice of feed. Enough sunflower and suet fall to the ground to satisfy ground-feeding birds. Milo seed is used as inexpensive filler in some mixed seed bags but it is largely thrown to the side and wasted. Bread is a poor food with bulk but little nutrition and should be avoided.
Some people report towhees at their feed this winter but none have come to mine. One reason might be that I do not provide ground feed. The best advice is to experiment with various feed types and then use what attracts the species you want to encourage in your landscape. A coming Nature Niche will address landscaping for wildlife.
Of course, budget is always a critical factor. Make sure your kids are fed but be benevolent and help wild neighbors when possible.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, 616-696-1753.