Now that winter has arrived with wet and cold conditions, we tend to spend less time enjoying our outdoor environment. One way to bring a part of outdoors closer to home is feeding, observing and identifying our local bird population. Finding food and a ready source of water during winter becomes more difficult so birds can be easily attracted to both if they are placed in accessible locations. Plan before you mount feeders and water sources for our feathered friends so you can enjoy the view.
Feeders can be placed near your house, near windows, in areas such as your kitchen, bedroom or living room where you can observe birds easily while at home relaxing or doing household chores. Set up feeders where there may be landing or perking spots near the feeder. There are often crowded conditions on a well visited feeder and the competition may limit easy access by less dominant bird species. A small tree such as dogwood or tall deciduous shrubs provide easy landing and perching sites for less aggressive birds while they wait to feed.
Feeders can be free mounted on poles, poles with hooks or small trees such as a dogwood growing near the window. Since there are so many feeder types it is often difficult to choose one for your home. Probably the easiest first feeder is a hopper type with a top to load food and a platform where bird seed disperses and birds can perch to feed. These attract various sized birds and can be hung or mounted near windows for easy viewing. There are variations on the width of perching area so narrow ledges can favor use by small less aggressive bird species. Hanging multiple feeders near your viewing area can allow more birds to access food.
There are many types of food available to feed wild birds. Some of the cheaper mixes of seed can have a high rate of loss as birds sift through and eat the sunflower and other favored seed and rake the rest out and onto the ground. The black oil sunflower seed can be expensive per large bag, but if you use it wisely it may be more beneficial to birds and your budget. Because seed can get wet and deteriorate, it is often best to manage your seed by partially filling the hopper during bad weather with the amount easily consumed in a few days by birds.
Birds need a ready source of water nearby to keep coming to an area to feed. A standup bird bath can be placed nearby or more simple containers such as large hard plastic pot saucers can be placed nearby at ground level. A simple and safe method is to use a 6 by 6 post buried to leave about five feet above ground. Balance a hard, large plastic pot saucer on the top of the post and use a flat rock to weight it down. Use a rock slightly taller than the depth of the saucer so birds can use it as a landing and drinking spot. Placing this near an outdoor faucet makes dumping it and cleaning it every week or so very easy.
Squirrels are often a problem and millions of dollars are spent to build feeders that are squirrel-proof. After many trials, I fill my feeder one-third full in the morning so birds get a shot and there is little left for the squirrels. In the old days on the farm, squirrel dumplings were used as a regular squirrel control method.
James Hodges is a Clemson Extension agent in Greenwood County. He can be reached at 864-223-3264.