The Bird Buffet
Winter Bird Feeding
If you want to see scads of birds in winter while staying warm, you can invite the birds to come up close to your window. Offer the birds a winter buffet. Place it in view from your living room, bedroom, dining room, or kitchen, and you're all set for a winter of entertainment and cheer.
A hanging feeder like the Red Ball Feeder lets you put the birds at eye level. And many birds feel most comfortable dining a few feet off the ground like that.
You can offer sunflower seeds in feeders suspended from a tree branch, from a shepherd’s-hook pole, or perhaps from the eaves of your house. If you have cats roaming your back yard, suspending the birdseed in the air also makes safer dining for the birds.
However, the easiest way to start attracting birds is simply to scatter birdseed on the ground. That is where you'll attract many of our native winter sparrows, towhees, and finches. Other birds who like to feed on the ground are cardinals, doves, and jays.
I recommend black oil sunflower seeds. I would not buy bags of mixed birdseed like are found at the supermarket. It's full of red millet, which most of the birds won't eat. In my opinion, it's a waste of money.
Location, location, location
Besides seeds, you will want to offer suet, solid animal fat. Woodpeckers love suet, as do many small birds who live on insects in the wild.
The least messy way to deal with suet is to buy packaged suet cakes, usually sold with some seeds mixed in. Offer suet in a special suet feeder that allows access only from the underside. Red-bellied Woodpeckers like the one in the photo and other woodpeckers find it easy to access the suet from below.
Chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice also have no problem hanging on from below. However, this type of suet feeder denies access to many nuisance birds. The non-native European Starlings just can’t get a grip. That is good, because otherwise a gang of starlings can gobble up all the suet and scare away the other birds. An upside-down feeder can reserve the suet for more desirable, native species.
Other specialty feeders can attracte varied clientele. I offer nyjer seed, which is tiny and rather expensive, in special hanging feeders. Goldfinches are all over the 17-inch Spiral Feeder all the time, and sometimes it also attracts pine siskins and common redpolls. Bigger birds leave it alone.
I also put peanuts in a hanging wire mesh feeder for my favorite, the Tufted Titmouse. Sometimes a Carolina Wren bops in for a peanut too.
When you first start feeding wild birds, you may have to wait a little while before the birds start visiting. Especially if you're beginning in winter, the birds are stressed by cold, and they may be going to the food sources they already know.
Keep putting out the food where birds can find it. Like with a new restaurant, word-of-beak will bring in the visitors. Don't worry if it takes a few days or a few weeks. They'll come.
Just set the table.
They will come.