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Published: Thursday, 7/27/2006

Enhance Your Garden With Bird Feeder Basics

Birds are one of the musicians of nature. Their sweet chirps and fluttering wings carry on the wind and often herald the warm weather. You can enjoy the upclose and personal sights and sounds of birds by welcoming them right into your backyard. Simply providing food will attract neighborhood birds and those who need a quick bite during migration flights.

While pouring some seed or tossing a few breadcrumbs on your lawn will suffice, you ll have a better chance of attracting a wide variety of birds if you choose a quality bird feeder and fill it with the seeds loved by different species.

There are a few things to know about bird feeders. Consult this primer to get started.

Types Of Bird Feeders

When shopping for bird feeders, you ll quickly discover that there is quite a variety available. Keep in mind that ease of use -- for both you and the feeding birds -- should be a top priority, followed by size and quality. A bird feeder is an investment, and some range in price from $30 to more than $100.

Rather than having to replace the feeder each year, make sure it is sturdily built and will be able to withstand the outdoor elements. Also, look for a feeder that can feed at least 12 birds of various sizes and species at one time. That said, now you can consider the different types and shapes of feeders.

Tray (platform): These feeders are simply a big, open tray that s easy to fill and easy for birds to access seed. What s more, they can accommodate several birds at one time. Most birds will jump at the chance to feast at a tray feeder. There are some who will be reluctant, however, including doves, quail, sparrows and other ground feeders. However, they can certainly dine on any seed that gets spilled over.

Hopper feeders: These have plastic or glass enclosures that dole out seed as it is needed. This is a smart choice since seed isn t wasted and it s protected when not being eaten.

Window feeders: Before storm windows and screened-in windows infiltrated modern society, birdseed was simply strewn out on an open window sill. You can still invite birds to your window with a window feeder that mounts like a window box. Or, there are models that simply suction to the window itself.

Tube feeders: These just may be the most efficient type of feeders out there. They re self-contained, the seed stays dry, and they hold a large amount of seed, making refilling an infrequent job. They also can feed a good number of birds at one time.

Nectar feeders: Some birds, like hummingbirds, orioles, house finches and some woodpeckers, prefer sweet nectar or sugar water over seed. Use a nectar feeder to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Choosing Food

Although most birds aren t picky when it comes to a free meal, choosing a seed they re really fond of will guarantee a better turnout at your feeder. Black oil sunflower seeds are quite popular and enjoyed by chickadees, grosbeaks, cardinals and finches. White proso millet is a great small seed and attractive to sparrows in the winter. Other birds, such as house finches and pine siskins, like thistle seed, also known as niger.

There are commercially made nectar products out there for nectar feeders. However, simply mixing a batch of sugar and water will suffice as well. Tint it with food coloring so you can easily see how much has been depleted.

Feeder Placement

Place the feeders where you can watch them easily and gauge if they need to be cleaned or refilled. Feeders come in freestanding, pole-mounted and hanging varieties, so investigate all your options.

Try to hang feeders by nearby trees or shrubbery so that the birds will have a quick place to retreat to if they feel threatened. In extremely windy areas, consider a sheltered location for your feeder.

Keep in mind that birds will not be the only animals attracted to the feeder. Squirrels are notorious pillagers, as are raccoons and even rats, especially if seed is knocked over onto the ground and not cleaned up promptly.

Squirrels are particularly dexterous and can scale bird feeder poles and raid the easy loot. There are bird feeders available that feature a cone-shaped shield with an 18-inch radius on the post below the feeder (at least four feet above the ground), which are geared toward stopping pests in their tracks.

As your welcoming backyard expands, consider adding more feeders of different sizes and even nesting containers and birdbaths to enhance the comfort level of these avian friends.



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