Wild Things…
Bird Feeders
By Karen Vizzi
   The days are growing shorter and the wind is beginning to howl. Time to crank up the fire and settle in for the long winter. But outside in the wild garden, it’s business as usual.
   Most insect life is now dormant, but our resident birds have barely noticed the change in season. It’s a good bet that the wild gardener will at some point or other become fascinated with birds. Bird feeding and bird watching is the best way to stay close to nature during winter months, and watching is so much easier to do now that the trees are shedding their leaves. With a little creativity, you can even do it from the warmth of your home.  I set up most of my feeders right on the back deck. By standing at the window, I can get up close and personal without scaring them off.
   There are many different varieties of feeders on the market, and which type to choose depends on the type of birds you want to attract. Cylindrical or tube feeders tend to attract smaller birds like finches and sparrows. Bin or hopper feeders are good for slightly larger birds such as cardinals. Platform feeders are almost a must for ground feeding birds like mourning doves and juncos. Although they will occasionally try hanging feeders, they prefer to dine from the ground. 
   I use a combination of all of these types of feeders. In addition, I hang thistle “socks”, which are the only feeder my goldfinches will eat from, and suet baskets for the downy woodpeckers that struggle to keep up with more aggressive diners in my yard. Once snow cover is persistent, I also set up a heated birdbath. In winter or summer, water is a sure-fire attractant for birds. 
   Because of the number of feeders I fill on a daily basis, you can imagine the amount of seed I have to keep on hand. To make the job easier, I keep the seed stored in a large rubber container (with tight-fitting lid) right outside the door. Occasionally a squirrel will try to chew threw the container, but they are rarely successful in breaking all the way through. I might not recommend this if you live in an area with raccoons, because they will figure out how to take the lid right off!
   Finally, it is not true that once you begin to feed birds in winter, you must become a slave to your feeders and that you will be responsible for decimating the population if you miss a few days. Birds are survivors and will almost always find a food source on their own. HOWEVER…one thing you must commit to is keeping your feeders clean. Moldy seed and dirty feeders are responsible for spreading all sorts of avian maladies. I scrape out all the old seed each time I refill, and twice a month each feeder is scrubbed in a bleach and water solution. Rather than making this a monumental project, I put my feeder cleaning on a rotating schedule so the task is much easier…and I stay committed to keeping my feathered friends healthy.

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