With Christmas dinner digested and wrapping paper cleaned up, it is time to end 2008 and start 2009 right with a good system for feeding our feathered friends.
If you have not tried it already, you are in for a real treat, and best of all it really helps the birds through a stressful tough winter season even in Northeast Georgia and further south. Over 65 million Americans have participated in bird feeding and bird watching, which makes it one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country, second only to gardening. These folks also spend more than two billion dollars on birdseed and over 600 million on baths, feeders and houses every year. If you are not yet one of them, join the crowd.
Believe it or not, there are good and not so good ways to do it but it is pretty easy to get started.
Throwing seed on the ground is not the best way to feed birds as soil contact makes the seed mold and rot, as well as increase potential for disease transmission from droppings especially bacteria such as salmonella. Feeders are a better choice and can be home made or purchased at many different stores.
Feeders can be hung or perched on a pole, post or table. This leads up to the subject of squirrels which can be a real problem. They can not only consume lots of seed but they repel the birds and can actually ruin the feeders by chewing on them. One time, a couple of years ago, I had 14 squirrels under my feeders in my front yard in Clermont. There may not be a reasonably priced 100 percent squirrel-proof feeder, but you can get close to this by careful placement. Do not hang feeders from a tree limb or within 10 feet of an overhanging tree limb. The easiest and best placement is on a metal pole 5-feet or more tall with a plastic or metal baffle or inverted cone about three feet up the pole. It looks like an upside down bowl or large dinner plate with a pole through the middle that stops the squirrel from climbing upward.
I have a threaded galvanized pipe driven into the ground with a “T” on top with two 3-foot horizontal pipes screwed into the “T” forming wings about 6-feet above the ground and parallel to it. One or two feeders can be hung from each wing depending on how many birds are attracted and what type of seed you use. This is not totally foolproof for squirrels but it is very close.
Next very important consideration is seed selection. Start with pure black oil sunflower seed which can attract goldfinches, chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches and titmice with tube feeders encased by wire mesh to exclude squirrels and large birds. A house-type feeder with a tray can attract cardinals, jays, purple finches, white-throated and white-crowned sparrows. A tray or platform feeder with white proso millet can attract doves, sparrows, towhees, blackbirds and cowbirds. A niger thistle feeder can attract gold and purple finches, sparrows, juncos and more. Finally, peanut butter suet can attract woodpeckers, juncos, thrushes, wrens, goldfinches, cardinals and even bluebirds. The most effective way to attract the most species of birds to your yard is to put out separate feeders for each food.
Commercial seed mixes most often contain a lot of filler seeds such as cracked corn, red millet, milo, oats wheat, rape, flax or buckwheat that are low preference foods for our most popular backyard bird species. These will be wasted by low consumption or will attract rodents and mostly undesirable birds like pigeons, starlings, blackbirds and cowbirds. Dried whole kernel corn, however, is a favorite of quail, turkeys, doves, jays and pigeons.
For more information on feeding birds and seed from Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com. This site also contains helpful links to other important bird feeding sites.
It is time to get started feeding, birds are still migrating south and native food sources are getting scarce. Go for it.