October Project: How to Attract Nonmigratory Birds - Part II

The ideal bird feeder should be sturdy enough to withstand tough winter weather. It also need to keep the seeds dry, so you should make sure it's tight. You also don't want to refill it constantly in the cold weather, so make sure it's large enough, and easy to assemble and keep clean.

For these reasons, plastic or metal feeders work better than wooden ones. In general, seed-feeders fall into three categories: tray feeders, hopper feeders, and tube feeders. Tray feeders are typically placed close to the ground and attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos, sparrows, and towhees. Tray feeders also work well when mounted on deck railings, stumps, or posts. Hopper feeders are very common and are often hung from trees, decks, and poles. These feeders are especially good for larger species such as cardinals, jays, and grosbeaks. Tube feeders are typically suspended from trees and posts.

Place your feeder in an area free of disturbances because you want to be able to perform maintenance on it easily. Your feeder should be close to natural shelters like trees or shrubs. Evergreens provide maximum cover from winter winds and predators. If trees and shrubs are too close, however, they can also provide good jumping-off places for squirrels that may be eyeing the seeds. Keep your feeder about 10 feet from trees and shrubs.

Clean your feeders about once every two weeks, more often during times of heavy use. Scrub them with soap and water, then dip them into a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Rinse them well and allow them to dry thoroughly before refilling them with birdseed. Another important maintenance activity is to clean below your feeder. Rake up the birdseed that falls to the ground because that can harbor bacteria. It could infect birds and kill your lawn or flowers.

Poorly maintained feeders may contribute to the spread of infectious diseases among birds. The feeders themselves can sometimes pose hazards too. Sharp edges can scratch birds and make them susceptible to infection. Here are some helpful hints for successful bird feeding:

     - Avoid overcrowding at feeders by placing numerous feeders several feet apart.
     - Keep your feeding area and feeders clean.
     - Keep food and food-storage containers dry and free of mold and fungus.
     - Check your feeders for safety.

Many people also worry about what will happen to their backyard visitors when they go on vacation. Ideally, a neighbor or friend should stop by to restock your feeder. Otherwise, try to taper off gradually before you go. Don’t fret, however; it’s fine to stop feeding briefly. In fact, bird consume about 75% of their food from natural sources even with feeders available.

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