Surefire tactics to fill your backyard with birdsong this winter

Shorter days, dropping temperatures and dealing with snow and ice can give many people a serious case of the winter doldrums. Most of us won’t be able to fight winter blues with a tropical getaway or a spa weekend. But there is an easy, convenient way to give yourself an emotional boost during the winter, and do something good for nature at the same time: feed wild birds.

More than 65 million Americans have tried bird feeding, according to a recent Census Report. Bird feeding is an easy and enjoyable hobby for people of any age, ability and skill level. Whether you’re new to bird feeding or a seasoned pro, here are some tips to help you enjoy a successful, mutually beneficial relationship with your backyard birds this winter:

Figuring out feeders

The type of feeder you use is important. To attract the greatest number of species, you’ll need to provide different types of feeders and feed choices. Hopper and platform designs are always popular, but whatever feeders you use during winter should have a few features in common:

* A wide cover over feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays will help prevent feed from being buried by snowfall. The cover should extend several inches over the feeder edge to ensure protection from all but the worst storms.

* Place feeders in sheltered locations out of severe winds. Placing feeders close to the house, or using window feeders, both offers the birds more shelter and gets them closer for great viewing. You can also place feeders near protective cover like hedges.

* Bigger is better for winter feeding. Large capacity feeders mean you’ll have to brave winter weather less frequently to refill them.

Keep ‘em clean

Birds appreciate cleanliness when it comes to their feeders. Because natural food sources are scarce in winter, your feeders will attract hungry birds. It’s important to clean them regularly to keep them free of mold, mildew and other unhealthy conditions that could foster disease.

Backyard with benefits

Here’s some steps to make your backyard even more beneficial to birds:

* Consider adding a heated bird bath. Birds have difficulty finding fresh water in the winter.

* Leave bird houses and nesting boxes in place through winter to act as shelter for roosting birds.

* Choose bird-friendly landscaping that includes sheltering evergreen plants, and plants that provide fruit for a natural winter food source.

Give birds a boost with food high in fat, nutrition and energy

With insects and fruit harder to find naturally during winter months, most birds will thrive on seeds. Suet, solid fat rendered from beef, venison or vegetables, is also good for birds, and provides much needed concentrated energy. Serving suet used to be a messy affair, but bird feed producers like Cole’s Wild Bird Products have made the task much easier for the server and even more beneficial for birds. Cole’s offers several mess-free ways to serve suet:

* Suet Kibbles are high potency and offer birds the berry flavors they love. Cole’s formulation also incorporates dried insects for increased stamina. Serve it in a sunflower feeder or mix with your favorite seed to attract warblers, woodpeckers, bluebirds and nuthatches.

* Suet Nuts combines nourishing peanuts and berry suet.

* Suet Pearls feature sunflower meats buried within energy-packed suet. You can serve them separately or mix with seed.

Your seed choices should be high-quality and tailored to provide birds with the biggest energy bonanza possible. Sunflower is a great seed option for winter because it’s rich in oil, which attracts birds and provides them with plenty of energy. Cole’s Oil Sunflower is the highest-grade black oil sunflower seed, it’s over 99 percent pure and cleaned four times to ensure you get more seed and fewer sticks.

Peanuts are another high-energy option. Choose hulled varieties that are whole – and more nutritious than peanut pieces. They’re especially attractive to titmice, nuthatches, wrens and woodpeckers.

Once you’ve invested in good seed and the right feeders, don’t overlook the importance of storing it properly. Store in airtight containers in an area of your home where the seed won’t be exposed to extreme temperatures. Never store seed outside as this can attract pests and predators.

This winter, boost backyard birds’ energy levels and serve up the right seed in the right feeder. You’ll enjoy winter bird-watching and the birds will benefit from the extra energy. Be patient, it may take a few weeks before the birds discover newly placed feeders. While you wait, be sure to keep the feeders full. Eventually, the birds will come. For more information on Cole’s Feed visit www.coleswildbird.com.

Source: ARA/Hillwood Square