Fall’s here; this is a time to begin thinking about starting to feed birds again.
Many bird fans feed year round, while others begin when the snow flies, but why wait?
Where does one start organizing feeders and food for these flying visitors?
Bob Ross, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop on Old Sauk Road in Middleton reminds us that we don’t like eating dirty plates and birds and feeders should be treated similarly.
“Start by cleaning the feeder. I clean mine weekly, depending on the weather, pretty much year round,” he said.
What’s here, what’s not, and what might show later?
“Many of the migratory birds have left, including rose-breasted grosbeaks, orioles, indigo buntings, most hummingbirds, though warm autumn days seem to coax some to stay a bit longer,” Ross. “Don’t stop feeding the hummers until they stop coming to the feeders. They know when to leave.”
Natural food influences the numbers of some species returning to Wisconsin after summering farther north.
“Pine siskins, up in Canada, did not have a good year because it wasn’t a good year for pine nuts,” Ross said. “This is likely to be a good year down here because of that. What they often take from feeders are thistle (nyjer) and black oil sunflower seeds.”
Siskins are one species that is a bit picky about eating old thistle seeds, so if the seeds don’t disappear from the feeders, it might be a good time to check the freshness. Ross suggests writing a date on the bags to note when the bag was purchased and let the siskins tell if the seeds have expired.
Bird action and activities are as interesting in autumn as winter, including chickadees and nuthatches caching seeds in bark cracks and any other place that will hold a few.
“They seem to remember where they put them, too,” Ross said.
One of Ross’ favored food mixes to start consists of a blend of black and striped sunflowers, and peanut halves, which are loved by blue jays, nuthatches and woodpeckers of all types.
Some birds, including juncos, go for millet. Others, including pileated woodpeckers pretty much go for suet.
“Once they get started, they’ll come to a suet feeder and spend 15-20 minutes eating,” he said.
Prices, in spite of spring and summer weather conditions, are forecast to be stable, similar to last year. Peanuts in the shell may be an exception, which Ross uses to attract nuthatches and woodpeckers.
The same types of suet can be used year round. Some suet mixes have beef fat in them making it easier for birds to get a meal in coldest weather.
Don’t hang bird feeders from trees, if you have problems with squirrels and raccoons. Use an in-ground pole system for support. If squirrels persist, consider using feed with a touch of cayenne pepper, but be kind and have a bird bath for the squirrels to get a drink right away after the pepper begins to heat up in their mouths.
Bark butter is a relatively new product that is much like our peanut butter but without all the people ingredients. Based on location, it might be worthy to attract what’s in the area and modify feeders and feed accordingly if something new comes seeking food.
Jerry Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.