They Chose to Stay. Let’s Feed Them

Bird feeder

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

While many birds migrate south for the winter, those that stay may need help in staying fed since the abundant berries, seeds and bugs of summer are long gone. Here’s how you can attract birds to feed around your home.

If you’d like to attract many different types of birds, offer different types of food. According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, sunflower-based bird food provides nutrition to many types of birds, including chickadees, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, painted buntings and blackbirds.

Jays, woodpeckers, pigeons, doves and indigo buntings will also eat them, but cracked corn is what they like better. Suet attracts some species of birds, like woodpeckers. Northern cardinals, warblers and towhees like fruit, so consider offering bits of fruit or raisins.

If you buy a commercial mix of favorite seeds and offer them together, most birds will find a good meal at your place; however, they may also waste a fair amount of seed as they pick over the seed they don’t like to go for their favorites. Offering a single type of seed per feeder may keep the birds content to eat their fill without making a mess of it.

Hang a feeder in an accessible area where birds have found food before. For example, if they like the berries on a bush in your yard, erect a feeder or hang a suet cake nearby. Hang a feeder in sight of a window to enjoy the show.

Seed eating birds may enjoy picking seeds off a pinecone smeared in peanut butter and rolled in seed. Hang one near a branch where they can perch and enjoy their meal. Offer clean water to your visitors as well.

Maintain your bird restaurant by keeping the feeder filled and clean and by providing clean water. Keep in mind that suet cakes can go rancid during a thaw in the weather, so replace them as needed. In colder weather, finding unfrozen water can be difficult for birds.

In the spring, consider planting a few bushes that will provide birds with ready-made meals over the winter. The National Audubon Society suggests Northern bayberry (Morella [Myrica] pensylvanica) for planting in partial shade in moist soil. You’ll need both a male and female plant to get berries. Southern arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) could also help feed the birds. Plant in sun to partial shade in moist, acidic soil. As a plus, you’ll enjoy burgundy foliage in fall.