Want to attract birds to your yard this winter? Here’s how.

Living the Wild Life

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With a few snowflakes falling I mowed up the last of the falling leaves around my backyard as a Black-capped chickadee landed on an empty feeder. Several American goldfinch were picking at the few thistle (niger) seeds in the mesh seed sack; it was time to begin the winter feeding if I wanted the winter-resident birds to make my backyard their winter restaurant.

With winter just around the corner and if you would like to have some visitors to brighten the dreary days ahead you need to start soon. Attracting birds to your yard can be exciting and heart-warming, but it takes commitment and some extra money.

Probably the best all-around seeds that attract Idaho birds are the black oil sunflower seeds and their one major drawback is that the shells make a mess as the birds eat only the meat inside. If you want to get away from the shell mess, you can buy the shelled sunflower seeds. I have also found that using two small sunflower feeders rather than a large feeder cuts down on waste but you need to fill the smaller ones every day.

If I am going to be gone several days I will use a larger feeder but I will tape over about half of the feeding holes. This also allows them food for a longer time, and if you are home, a few fun battles to watch as the birds fight over the available feeding spots.

The main two other types of food I have available for birds are a thistle seed sack for finches and several suet blocks for woodpeckers and other fat-loving birds. The suet can be a mess to use during the summer as it will melt, but it will harden during the winter and is a welcome food for some beautiful birds. I prefer the “nut or nutty” flavored suet because of woodpeckers but also offer a fruit flavored one for the birds that like fruit.

I stay away from the cheap “Wild Bird Food” as most of it will consist of red millet that our western birds do not enjoy and will waste most of it to get to the pieces of sunflower hearts. Mixed seeds do not attract a variety of birds, but always cause waste as the birds look for the preferred food.

If you live in an area where the squirrels are a problem, you will have to buy a feeder that is squirrel proof or will have to create feeders that will deter squirrels from eating all the feed or wasting it. They are very creative and can usually find a way to be a problem.

As you develop a community of birds during the winter, eventually a Sharp-shinned hawk will find their feeding spot and will occasionally harvest one of your birds. I have found that they prefer attacking my unwanted visitors like starlings and the invading Eurasian-collared doves and I am happy to see them.

Starting to feed now and keeping food available will insure that you will have birds visit your yard during the winter months. I like to let my sunflower seed feeders be empty toward evening as the chickadees will let you know that they are out of food. T
hey will know where you keep your food and may even feed out of your hand or light on your shoulder as you get the food for them.

So if you want a little more joy in your life, set out some bird feeders and you may have more friends than you ever dreamed of this winter.