How to Put Up a Bird Feeder This Winter
Expert tips to keep your backyard lively, even in the coldest weather
As cold weather sets in, consider feeding feathered friends who stick around in winter instead of heading south. Putting up a feeder at home means that “if birds find your yard, they don’t have to go a long way away to replenish their energy sources,” says David Currie, president of the Nova Scotia Bird Society. Here are some of Currie’s tips to get you started.
When and where to put up bird feeders in your backyard
Currie puts his own bird feeders out toward the end of October and takes them down on May 1. Hang the feeder—most birds will come to a platform model—at least five metres away from windows, and use translucent decals on the glass to help reduce collisions.
Choose a spot that provides cover—with trees and shrubs nearby, for safety from predators—but is still visible from inside the house, so you can enjoy seeing the birds. Clean up seed on the ground to avoid visits from unwanted critters, like mice, and refill the feeder once it’s empty, which could be daily.
What to feed the birds
The Canadian Wildlife Federation has packaged birdseed blends approved by a wildlife nutritionist. Their Songbird Medleys mix includes niger for smaller birds, like finches and warblers (which will require a tube feeder), while the Vibrance mix has peanut pieces and safflower for medium-sized birds, like blue jays.
Suet is a high source of protein and energy, and will attract woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees, Currie says.
Sean James, a master gardener and owner of Sean James Consulting & Design in Milton, Ont., leaves plants such as coneflowers, asters and liatris standing in the garden for winter nourishment. “It’s not just seed heads, but any little nooks in the stems that bugs might live in that are important,” he says.
Why it’s important to keep your bird feeder clean
In the Atlantic provinces, a parasite called Trichomonas gallinae can infect birds, especially purple and gold finches. (Similar cases have also been reported in Ontario and Quebec.)
To keep the disease from spreading in your backyard, Currie says to scrub your feeder regularly in a bucket or sink with one part bleach to about nine parts water. Wear gloves and allow it to dry before refilling with fresh seed.
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