Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.
You have been testing out different bird food and have discovered who is visiting your yard and what they prefer. The second step to Bird Feeding mastery in your yard really is a twofold process.
By using the appropriate food, in good quality feeders, you will have created a joyful experience that will last for many years. There will also be challenges that you will face when feeding your birds — shall we say it — SQUIRRELS! Yet, there will also be many opportunities to find better solutions to feed the birds you want and not the ones you do not.
You can offer a number of different blends and seeds as long as you give the Cardinal a good space to perch. They are not comfortable on small metal perches usually found on tube feeders. Hopper feeder with a large base, tray feeders and certain types of squirrel proof feeders with Cardinal rings and perches are perfect.
If you found that the cardinals ate multiple seeds, you can use a quality blend with most of the seeds in it. The good seed blends will almost always have Black Oil sunflower seed as the most dominant food in the bag. Safflower, striped sunflower, sunflower chips and peanut meats are in most quality blends.
Never purchase a bag of “bird food” if the ingredients include milo, wheat, flax and grain products. These are all filler seeds that the birds will not eat. The cost of the bag may be much less, but much more of the food will be thrown to the ground and not eaten.
If you were visited in your yard by Blue Jays, a strikingly large color bird with a bad guy reputation, you can give them their own feeder. Whole Peanuts or Peanuts in the Shell are one of the best foods to attract this bird.
A whole peanut feeder will keep them busy and help to keep them from visiting other feeders and intimidating the smaller birds. Do not be surprised if Titmice, Woodpeckers and even the small Carolina Wren sneak in a grab a large peanut in the shell.
Many yards have goldfinches visiting them. If you were successful in attracting them, more than likely you used a Nyjer or Thistle feeder. There are very few birds that will eat the thistle. Giving the Goldfinch its own feeder also works to keep them in the yard and reduce the stress of competition.
Surprisingly, what has been discovered over the last ten years is that the Goldfinches really like the sunflower chips (sunflower seeds shelled leaving the pure food). It is not unusual to see them mingling with the other birds to grab a chip.
Since the Male Goldfinch loses the bright yellow plumage, it can get lost in the winter flocks of other birds. But with a quick look with binoculars, you will be able to see the white and black wing bars and know they are goldfinches.
Nyjer seed or a finch mix of Nyjer seed and fine sunflower chips always works better in a tube feeder.
If you identified nut eating birds such as Chickadee, Titmouse, Nuthatch and Woodpeckers, you will want to provide them with foods rich in fats. Suet, made of rendered beef fat and mixed with ingredients such as seeds, nuts, fruits, and mealworms is an excellent way to feed and view these birds.
From simple wire cages to tail prop feeders to fancy containers, these feeders will give you the opportunity to view the birds for a long time.
The easy convenience of bird food cylinders might really appeal to you. They are very low maintenance. They may last for a couple of weeks, with regular bird activity before a new cylinder must be replaced.
There are many different types of cylinders with a variety of foods which has the ability to entice a variety of birds to use it. We guide many young families with young ones and active schedules to use these cylinders.
Once you have established the seed types you were successful with, you can look to add different foods to compliment those seeds. Mealworms and especially dried mealworms have become very popular foods to use in your backyard habitat. Very rich in protein and fat, this food helps the birds in the colder months when insects are not as abundant. Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Robins (which stay all winter long), Cardinals, Jays and many more birds will come to your mealworm feeder.
You are ready to start designing your backyard setup. Our next article will discuss the “Twelve Elements of a Thoughtful Bird Feeding Station.”