Weekly Hack: Winter bird feeding tips

winter bird feeding By Ian Hanson/Shutterstock

Dozens of species can benefit from your winter bird feeding efforts. And even though feeder food only makes up about 10 per cent of a bird’s diet, this number goes up when the weather is very cold or especially inclement—think raging ice storm. Follow these tips to attract the largest variety of birds this winter.

*Use a mix of feeder types, including tube feeders, hopper feeders, and suet (you can buy specialized metal cages, or hang the suet in an onion bag). You can also DIY it; try making this Mason jar feeder.

*Use a variety of seed types. Definitely include black oil sunflower seeds—most birds eat these, and they tend to be an avian first choice. Other options? Striped sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, white millet, and nyjer seeds.

*Research the bird species in your area to pick the most crowd-pleasing food. Some birds, such as quail and doves, like cracked corn; other species won’t touch it. Unshelled peanuts are great for blue jays, but hard to eat for less dextrous birds. If you buy seed mixes, read the ingredients list first. Stay away from the ones that contain wheat, oats, or flax. (Unless truly desperate, most birds avoid this stuff, and it’s likely to just sit around and attract rodents.)

*Dirty feeders spread disease. Clean yours every two or three weeks, using a 10 per cent bleach solution and then rinsing very thoroughly, or by following the feeder manufacturer’s instructions. Note: this cleaning schedule is okay for cold weather, but won’t cut it in the summer. The warmer and more humid it is outside, the more frequently you’ll need to clean your feeders. Read more about feeder cleaning advice from the Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch program.

*Fill a clean feeder with fresh seed. Don’t use seed that’s dusty, feels rubbery, is sticking in clumps, or is mouldy. Store seed in metal containers with metal lids.

*After a fresh snowfall, stomp the area below your feeders. This makes it easier for ground-feeding birds such as dark-eyed juncos to access the fallen seeds.

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