Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wildlife Winter Habitat–A Place for Birds

How to Attract Birds to Your Winter Garden

As the season changes in my Zone 6 Ohio garden, I’m amazed at the large flocks of birds that land in nearby trees.  The ‘chatter’ sounds like rushing water.  The rest stop is part of the yearly migration to warmer climates.  But some of their dear friends do not make the trip.  These brave creatures are going to be looking for food, water, and shelter in the coming months. Some of the winter feeding birds are robins, purple finches, yellow finches, cedar waxwing, chickadees and cardinals.  Starlings also stick around in my area. 

cedar waxwingpurple finches

So what can we do?  Having an environment that draws birds during winter is easy if we consider all of their needs.

Food  -  Native trees and shrubs that produce berries are a great attraction for birds during winter.   Native plants serve the wildlife well.  Some native trees to consider are serviceberry, crabapple, dogwood, hawthorn, and American mountain ash.

.07hawthorne_tree_JPGservice berry in fall

Native shrubs also have food for the winter feeders.  Some of these are striking in the winter landscape as well. 

American cranberry bush- viburnumFall_Chokeberry

osu ext. beautyberrysilky-dogwood-berries

Photos are chokeberry, cranberry bush, silky dogwood, and beautyberry.

If your yard does not have these trees and shrubs in place for this winter’s needs, consider planting one or two.  Trees and shrubs can be planted as long as the ground is not frozen.  Usually, that gives me through December to plant in my area.
Bird feeders are another option for encouraging birds to your winter garden.  Food provided in the winter is a gift to the birds when all other sources are covered in snow, or picked clean.  Five types of feeders are available to draw different types of birds. 

bird feeder tray

1) The tray type is simply that – a shallow board or framed screen that holds seed. The screens allow moisture to drain a reduces the growth of bacteria in the seed. The board type should have drainage holes.  Pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows will visit, as well as grosbeaks and native sparrows.

pine grosbeaknative sparrow

2) Hopper style feeders are probably the more popular in backyards.  The seed stay relatively dry, and the side perches allow finches, jays, cardinals, buntings, titmice, and chickadees to land and eat.
cardinal on hopper feederhopper style

Cardinals like seeds like sun flower seeds, safflower seeds, and nuts.

3)  Window feeders attach with suction cups or hooks can be attached to the side of the house.  These feeders allow for great bird watching.  One will see finches, chickadees, and titmice.

wildbirds unlimited photo titmicetitmouse on window feeder

4)  Tube feeders allow for small Niger seed to be available to finches and other smaller birds.

 squirrel proof feedereHow photo fo homemade tube feeder
Depending on the construction material, very small seed to larger seed can be dispensed.  Some have small screen openings, and some are mesh wire.

5)  Suet feeders are solid bricks of seeds and berries.  They need a basket hanger to hold the brick of food.  Woodpeckers, jays, and starlings will visit this type of feeder.   

 suet feeder cageeHow suet feeder

Feeding birds is fun for the do-it-yourselfer, too.  Pine cones can be spread with peanut butter, an rolled in loose seed to coat it.  Lids can be strung with wire and filled with seed.  Get the children involved too.

how-to-make-suet-feeder-1 julie Day Danny Lipford
Photo from Danny Lipford and Julie Day
gadgetsponge shows us a log filled with suet
Gadget Sponge repurposes this log.

Here is a recipe for homemade suet from Patricia Collins of Callaway Gardens.

1 C shortening, melted in saucepan
1 C peanut butter stirred into the shortening until melted
Mix in:
1 C all purpose flour
3 C cornmeal
Whole rolled oats, raisins, nuts, bird seed or breadcrumbs can be added.
Mixture should be like putty.  
Spread into aluminum pan.  Let cool, then cut into pieces that fit the suet basket feeder.  

Another seed source is to grow them yourself.  Coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, globe thistle, and the annual, millet, in the summer garden will supply a desirable menu for winter feeding birds.

Birds eating coneflower seeds

Attracting birds to the winter garden is fun and easy.  And the visitors will take up residence in spring and bring offspring into the garden too. Birds are  welcome in the garden. They consume insects and help keep the balance in nature.  
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