downy woodpecker feeds on a suet log in Shirley
nothing better than watching songbirds at feeders during
winter’s dreary months.
in ruby red coats, woodpeckers in black-and-white
tuxedos and bluebirds in royal finery brighten the
frequent visitors to our feeders quickly become old
friends — the same birds come every day, all
day," says Shirley Devan, outgoing president of the
Williamsburg Bird Club —www.williamsburgbirdclub.org
— in southeastern Virginia.
quickly learn who likes to eat seeds on the ground, who
likes the seed feeders, who likes the suet feeders.
Birds always surprise me. The red-bellied woodpecker
likes the seed feeder more than the suet. The brown
thrasher prefers suet. ‘My’ hermit thrush usually
just sips water. I have a pair of downy woodpeckers —
male and female. I like to think they nest in my
neighborhood in spring and summer."
for a home-based habitat are a personal choice.
birder Martha Wren Briggs says commercial feeders aren’t
necessary because birds are tree or ground feeders, and
each type eats bread and seeds tossed on the ground, or
put in a flat dish. Fresh water is important even in
winter and is best provided in a shallow dish, such as a
large flat saucer used under large planters, because
birds dislike a deep bird bath, she advises.
your imagination to feed your tree-dining friends,"
easiest way to serve fat trimmings from meats, suet or a
peanut butter and cornmeal mixture is to simply rub it
in the bark of a tree. Tree feeders will shimmy down the
tree and peck away at the delicious treat.
are curious birds. Place an almost empty peanut butter
jar on the ground, and wrens will go in and out, taking
a nibble each time."
you opt for traditional feeders, squirrels and raccoons
may raid your seed supply, so baffle deterrents are your
best friend. If blackbirds swarm your surroundings,
caged feeders help keep bully birds and squirrels at
bay; when you choose caged feeders, make sure the cages
are large enough to prevent wanted critters from
reaching in to grab goodies.
the posts that support feeders are important parts of
the pastime. Wrought-iron poles with hooks for
hanging feeders are attractive, but often they lean and
fall in soft, wet soil. Feeders hung on trees are highly
susceptible to predators taking advantage of the
you’re looking for an extra sturdy feeding station,
here’s one I recently created for my feathered
1 square treated
post, 4-by-4, 10 feet long
bag, quick-set concrete
baffle with 4-inch square opening
hooks, each about 12 inches long (consider vinyl-coated
hooks, not just painted, versions for durability);
choose hangers that set out far enough to accommodate
width of feeders
cap for post top
a post-hole digger to create a hole
about 24 inches deep. Place treated post
in hole, pour in concrete mixed with water
according to directions on bag.
concrete sets, adjust post and use level to
ensure the post is straight on all sides.
post to set a couple days before installing baffle and
then attaching hangers (use long screws for
stability). Place decorative cap on post top;
fill and hang feeders.
feeders and fillers:
feeders on the four hooks, consider a caged suet feeder,
Duncraft caged peanut feeder and two Droll Yankees caged
domed feeders with large tubes so you don’t have to
fill them so often. Plastic domes on feeders help
shield them from rain; you may want to consider taking
in feeders during prolonged, heavy rains to prevent
costly seed from molding.
seeds, sunflower will get you tons of beautiful birds,
but it may also attract blackbirds and obnoxious fish
crows that tend to live near waterways. Cole’s offers
special blends that include sunflower meats, fruits and
assorted nuts; Cole’s seeds — www.coleswildbird.com
— are sold at specialty wildlife stores and garden
addition to the feeding station, consider specialty
feeders such as a finch feeder with thistle seed,
bluebird feeder with dried mealworms and platform
feeders (composite wood feeders are awesome!) with
safflower seed, which squirrels and nuisance birds tend
to leave alone. Look for feeders that are easy to clean,
such as the Droll Yankees feeders which have a metal rod
that you pull to remove the ports for easy cleaning.
Feeder should routinely be cleaned with a splash of
bleach added to soap and water, then thoroughly rinsed
and dried before refilling.
matter how many or what style birdfeeders you choose to
use, there is one all-important aspect to remember —
enjoy the sights and sounds of your feathered friends.
They will probably stick around and nest in your yard,
turning your environment into a healthy, happy habitat.
cup smooth peanut butter
cup vegetable shortening
cup white flour, not self-rising
cups yellow cornmeal, not self-rising
ingredients together thoroughly and place in a suet log
(small log with holes drilled in it) or simply smear the
paste on the trunk of tree, branch, post of other solid
object where birds can easily find and reach it. Store
unused suet in closed container in refrigerator until
needed. — National Audubon Society; www.audubon.org
it simple: Using plain beef suet is great for birds —
squirrels leave it alone, it’s cheap and all the birds
love it! — Cornell Lab of Ornithology;