Winter is when most of us think about feeding wild birds. It just stands to reason that less vegetation and the lack of insects mean less stuff for our feathered friends to eat.
Although many experts say it’s important to provide food for wild birds all year, winter is certainly a great season to get started if you are a newcomer. First, though, ask yourself a simple question: What kind of birds do I want to attract?
In Tennessee and its surrounding states, we are lucky to have a wide range of songbirds. Cardinals, bluebirds, bluejays, tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, goldfinches, purple finches, nuthatches, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, black-capped chickadees, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings, good ol’ robins, and many other species abound. If you want to attract a variety of these birds, you need to provide a variety of feeds and feeders.
Feeders are available at Stockdale's in many shapes and sizes, but the most common types are tubes, domes, houses, trays, and suet-styles. Tube feeders are effective because they protect seed from the elements, allow for several birds at once, and are difficult for squirrels and large, destructive birds like grackles and cowbirds to disturb. The only downside to a tube feeder is that larger songbirds like cardinals and blue jays have problems fitting on the perches, but it is perfect for chickadees, finches, titmice, and other small species.
Open tray or platform feeders placed on or just above the ground are available to whatever varmint happens along but are frequented by ground-feeding birds like juncos, doves, and sparrows. Use hanging platform feeders to provide live mealworms for bluebirds.
House or hopper-type feeders have a reservoir that dispenses seed as the birds eat. They usually keep food dry, need filling less frequently, and attract everything from chickadees to cardinals, but be careful — a flock of grackles can empty one quickly.
That brings me to types of food. If I had to pick only one to fill my feeders, it would be black-oil sunflower seed. More than 40 wild bird species will eat it, and at least 14 seek it out as their favorite. It is a high-energy food that is often found in mixtures.
White millet is a favorite of practically any bird, but it also doesn’t preclude any species, either. On the other hand, safflower is readily eaten by birds that like sunflower, but most squirrels don’t tend to like it. Problem birds like grackles have a hard time cracking safflower and generally ignore it.
Suet caters to birds like woodpeckers, robins, and bluebirds that usually don’t visit typical seed feeders, but many seedeaters appreciate a good suet cake, too. Suet is generally high in fat and is a great energy food, especially during cold weather when birds need to fuel their metabolism to stay warm.
Nyjer seed is almost entirely dedicated to our little buddies, the finches. In nature, finches eat the small, slender seeds of flowers, and nyjer fits that bill perfectly.
Co-op’s Feathered Friend line of mixed bird feeds offers options for any type of birds you want to invite to your backyard. Your local Stockdale's can supply you with all the items I’ve mentioned, plus a lot more. Stop in today to prepare for the winter bird-feeding season, and then sit back and enjoy the colorful show!