Interested? If so, here are some simple tips on how to attract migratory birds and other feathered friends to your neighborhood.
Other seed options include Nyjer thistle, attractive not only to native birds but also to migratory species. Migratory birds also tend to like smaller seeds such as white millet, which is good for juncos, migratory sparrows and smaller, finch-type birds, Henderson says.
Beyond seed, suet is a high-energy food enjoyed by woodpeckers and chickadees, Henderson says. Suet is a form of animal fat that is often molded into cakes.
As for what not to use, stay away from what you might think is the conventional bird and duck food.
"Bread has little, if any, nutritional value, and moldy bread can make birds sick," says Janet Snyder, outreach manager for humane wildlife conflict resolution for the Humane Society of the United States.
There are three main types of feeders, Snyder says:
• Tube bird feeders, which come in various sizes and shapes, can be appropriate for all types of seed.
• Hopper feeders, which look similar to a birdhouse, hold many types of seed, and can accommodate larger birds like cardinals.
• Platform bird feeders, which feature a flat surface with a perimeter lip to keep food from spilling. Such feeders can be placed low for juncos, mourning doves and other ground-feeding birds.
Proper maintenance is also important, Snyder says.
"Feeders should be cleaned and washed regularly every two weeks or so to reduce the chance of spreading disease and to remove any spoiled or moldy seed," she says.
"When they're migrating to an area they're not familiar with, they're more susceptible to predation by cats or hawks," Henderson says.
One tactic is to use twigs, branches and sticks of various sizes to build a brush pile about 10 feet from the feeder, which birds can use as a hiding place, Henderson says. An effective brush pile is usually about 10 feet long and 5 feet high.
Blue jays are also a helpful defense against hawks; other birds recognize their loud distress call. To attract more blue jays to the yard, add unshelled and unsalted peanuts to the feed mix.
To keep squirrels and raccoons away from the feeder, you might add dome or pole baffles, which make it more difficult for these interlopers to mooch.
You can also encircle ground feeders with wire rabbit fencing, Henderson says. The wire fencing can prevent hawks from swooping in and pulling birds off the feeder, and also stop cats from hiding near the feeder.
By the way, if you own a cat and let it outdoors, you probably should reconsider whether it's a good idea to attract and feed birds. "People who allow their cats to roam or (people who) feed feral or stray cats should be strongly discouraged from enticing birds to their yard with feeders," Snyder says.
"You can get tropical migratory birds stopping at your birdbath in the fall," Henderson says. "You're going to see birds coming to your bath that you wouldn't normally see."
Although birds don't need much water, a birdbath can be a helpful defense against the elements.
"Water is essential to life and can be hard for birds to find when rainwater is scarce, or in cold Midwestern winters when water sources are frozen," Snyder says.
Sarah Frink, Tribune Brand Publishing
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