Feeding birds in winter

By Dave Shiley

Bird feeding is a very popular way to enjoy wildlife in your backyard. A bird feeder placed in view of a kitchen or living room window can provide a pleasurable and educational experience. Many people choose to feed birds year round, while others elect to feed birds only during the cold months of winter.

Try to put the feeder in a location that is protected from winter winds. If you are placing your feeder on a pole it should be 5 to 6 feet from the ground. There are some bird species, such as doves, which feed on the ground, so you might want to install a ground platform feeder to meet their needs.

In addition to protection from the cold winter winds, birds need protection from predators that may be attracted to your feeder, but not for the seed. So, position your feeder within five feet of some type of cover such as trees or shrubs for escape from predators. Birds will also use these areas for loafing between meals.

The type of seed you put into the feeder is an important consideration. There are many premixed bird seeds on the market, but what is in the mix will have an effect on how much is actually consumed. Some birdseed mixes contain seeds, such as milo, wheat, oats and rice, which are unattractive to most birds. Most of these types of seeds will end up on the ground. While mourning doves will consume some of this seed, some will still remain unconsumed.

One way to avoid waste seed is to make your own mixture. A combination of white proso millet and black oil-type sunflower seed will give you the most for your bird-feeding dollar, because these seed types are preferred by many types of birds. While the initial cost of this seed combination may be higher, very little seed and therefore, money will be wasted.

Don’t forget to keep your bird feeder clean. Once a week, or as necessary, remove moldy seed and fecal matter from the feeder. If you feed birds during the warmer months, disinfect your feeder at cleaning time with a weak bleach solution.

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