Even though November is a very busy month as we put our gardens to “sleep” for the winter, now is the time to think of our fine feathered friends who will either pass through on their way south or stay through the winter on our properties. Birds are very beneficial in controlling insects in the garden, and now is the time to encourage them to put your garden on their map.
Setting up a new bird feeding station can be done at any time during the year. Birds are found at birdfeeders virtually at all times of the year, all over the country, though fall is a perfect time to begin feeding the birds. In fall, bird populations and activities are at its peak. Some birds will be stocking up for their long migrations while other birds that will be wintering in your area will scout out for reliable food sources.
Once birds find a food source, water and shelter for the winter season, they will stay in that territory. The birds will most likely seek other food sources in nearby fields or wood areas, but they will always come back to the feeders that first attracted them. Once you set up a bird feeder, continue feeding the birds until spring when natural food sources become abundant again. Personally I fill my feeders regularly from fall to spring, then let the birds find the insects during the growing year, keeping my plants insect free.
The biggest complaint I have heard from people is that bird feeders can be messy, with excess seeds and shells littering the ground around the feeder. During the winter, place an old piece of carpet around the base of the feeder to prevent the accumulation of seed and remove it first thing in spring. If you feed during the growing season, there are many “no waste” seed blends on the market that will reduce the mess while keeping the birds happy.
Birds will eat a variety of foods during the winter including seeds. Sunflower seed is the most popular seed offered in bird feeders and are eagerly eaten by most large birds at feeders. Millet seed is the best year-round seed for smaller birds. Thistle seed is a good choice of seed for goldfinches. Try to avoid cheap mixes with fillers such as buckwheat. The higher the quality of the seed, the more likely the birds will be happy and healthy.
Grit is needed by birds to help grind up food in their gizzard. In areas of the country where winter provides a complete snow-covered landscape, natural forms of grit are hard to find. In these areas of the country, offer grit in the form of finely crushed eggshells.
In the winter, many birds depend on a high-energy diet. Beef suet is inexpensive and well liked by the birds. Suet can be offered to birds in specialized suet feeders, or on platform / table feeders. Mesh or onion bags also make a great suet feeder. Also there are many varieties of suet on the market today, including berry, peanut, corn, etc.
Kitchen scraps of breads are well liked by birds. White bread alone should not be the only food source for birds since it has no nutritional value (all parents should know this by now). Remove any uneaten bread from the ground to prevent it from spoiling or attracting unwanted animals.
There is not a better picture in the world than a cardinal standing next to a feeder when the snow is on the ground. When everything in the landscape is covered in white, having a colorful show of birds in your garden can brighten even the longest winter day.