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Birdfeeding Is An Enjoyable Winter Activity

December 2013

By The News-Sentinel

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For the person who wants a new but not too intense hobby, the easy answer is to become a bird watcher.

"You just need time to sit down and relax," says Steve Bennett, owner of The Bird Seedery.

It`s as easy as putting up a feeder in your own backyard.

"Birds need food, water and shelter," Bennett said, noting that there are a wide variety of feeder styles available today. Ranging from tubular feeders to platform trays and a special number called the "Squirrel Buster," the variety is astounding.

Each feeder can cater to a specific type of bird -- for example, the small tube feeders will attract little finches, while a larger platform feeder will allow bigger birds like cardinals and blue jays to perch and peck. The most important thing, though, is for you to be able to see the birds when they feed.

"The tubular feeders with a tray allow visibility... the tray catches all the seed (scattered by messy perch-feeders) so bigger birds can perch (on the tray) and eat," Bennett noted.

Choosing the proper bird seed is also important. Shoppers should look for the type of seed that attracts the kinds of birds that they want. For example, Niger seed, (a.k.a. thistle) is good for bringing in gold finches. Suet attracts birds that need the extra carbohydrates, like woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Because they are wild animals, birds will shell their own seeds. But, if a person doesn`t want to have to rake up a bunch of shells from messy diners, there is another option -- the "no mess mix."

Bennett formulates all his own bird seed mixes, and this particular type is made up of shelled sunflower seeds, peanuts, and millet. If some of the seed is spilled from the feeder and not eaten, it simply disintegrates into new soil, without leaving behind a husk.

Water is another bird necessity. Although many people opt to empty their bird in the winter, there is another option -- heated bird baths. There are several types available: self-heating bird baths, and auxiliary bird bath heaters.

Installing a heating bird bath isn`t that hard -- "Basically, you plug it in with an outside extension cord," Bennett explained.

The birdbath automatically starts to warm when temperatures drop to 40 degrees -- that way, the bath won`t crack. The auxiliary heater is placed into the water basin and heats it, similar to the way a fish tank heater works.

Naturally, when food is put out for the birds, other animals will become curious. At the Fox Island City Park, Ron Zartman has seen everything.

"We get a number of mammals (here)," he said, listing the non-feathered visitors that stop by for an occasional snack. "Red squirrels, fox squirrels, opossums, a mouse... We`ve gotten to where we`ll take in the feeders at night -- the deer will lick (them) clean!"

To prevent unwanted seed snatching, some people install squirrel or raccoon baffles to protect their feeders. Baffles can be plastic or metal, and they serve as a shield to keep squirrels from scaling and landing on the feeder.

Zartman, who is the park and education manager for Fox Island, recommends that a baffle be placed at least 4 feet up from the ground, if you`re using a pole with a feeder on top.

It`s also good to place a feeder at least 10 feet from any objects like trees or picnic tables. That prevents squirrels from using them as a launch pad to land on a free lunch.

But, "the most important thing is to place (the feeder) where you can see it all the time," commented Bennett. "Then you apply the 10-foot rule."

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Copyright News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN) 2013

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Photo submitted by WeatherBug user Margarita M. from Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.

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