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 see it with your eyes, with the dimming of the day. You feel it on your face, when the winds blow hard from the north. You hear it with the calls of migrating flocks of geese and leaves rustling under your feet. The season has changed and fall is upon us.
There is beauty in the colors. There is energy with a crispness in the air. There is a sadness in the nakedness of nature. oaks, elms, maples, all stand structurally sound and bare with their strength to see.
Shrubs that bare fruit, are all being devoured by flocks of birds. The living flowers in gardens, once pollinating, are withered and have fallen.
Yet, the front, back and side yards of our little kingdoms are packed with birds. Busy preparing for the changes to their world. Looking for sources of food, water and shelter as the long nights and short days of survival begin.
Flocks of juncos and white throated sparrows have made their way from the northern forest to take up residence in my backyard.
Juncos have been commonly called “snowbirds,” because they show up so strikingly on the ground after the first snowfall. It is always a challenge for me to try and pick them out of the myriad of autumnal colors of leaves that cover my grounds.
If you see a leaf bouncing on the ground in the early morning, there is a good chance it is a junco or white throat right next to it. When you spot the one, your eyes will soon after discover twelve more. They flock well in numbers. They winter here, so tray feeders with sunflower chips and a “little” millet will help sustain them.
Even though natures colors may be waning, you can add color to your habitat by attracting reds and blues in the form of cardinals and bluejays. Both species will flock in the Winter to find food and shelter and protection from predators.
Whole peanuts, peanuts that are shelled and tree nuts in a good mix will bring in 6-10 strikingly beautiful bluejays like magic. Any really good mix of black oil sunflower, peanut meats, and safflower will brighten your winter yard with blazing red and orange of the male and female cardinals.
Thirty cardinals, queuing up on tree branches in my yard during a snowstorm, waiting their turn at the feeders, is a striking image.
These are just a few of the dozens of different species of birds you will attract in your yard this winter with good feeders and good food.
Here is a warning for you: do not be tricked into buying the “cheap blends” because they are cheap in price. They are useless in terms of foods that provide fat for the birds.
The number one food that the birds need to survive the long, cold, winter nights is fat. Cheap blends, with mostly millet, have no fat. Avoid those at all costs, even though the cost is minimal.
Don’t let the nakedness of nature dampen your spirit. Clothe your yard with many colorful birds. We can help you do this! Watch our video to learn how. Hint-Hint you get something for free!