Did Santa Claus bring you a bird feeder? Let the party begin! – Kane County connects
- EDITOR’S NOTE: This Good Natured column has been
If Santa has brought you a bird feeder this year, you might breathe a sigh of relief right now. They are, after all, pretty straightforward, right? No indecipherable owner’s manual; no desperate calls for tech support. Shoot, most don’t even need batteries.
All you have to do is get some seeds or some tallow and, woo hoo! Let the party begin.
But is it really that easy?
It’s true – in fact, we’ve said this many times before – hanging up a bird feeder is like throwing a party. Keep in mind, however, that you will have no control over the guest list.
Despite the colorful cardinals and perky chickadees decorating the seed packet, you might find your feeding station inundated with house sparrows or other pork imports. This succulent tallow cake can be just as irresistible to a squirrel or raccoon as it is to the woodpecker it’s intended for.
The good news is that there are some things you can do to, if not control, at least influence who or what feeds on your seeds. And you don’t need to hire a feathered bouncer to do it.
The first step you can do is actually not at the feeder, but at the feed store.
You know how at the butcher’s shop you can choose between the cheap cuts, all fat and crisp, and the raw ones? It’s the same with birdseed.
Some seed mixes are loaded, not with fat and cartilage, but with “filler” grains that most birds don’t want to deal with. Milo, for example, is a bulky seed with little nutritional value. However, it is cheap to produce and takes up a lot of space, so you will find it in abundance in many inexpensive birdseed mixes.
Although some birds, such as doves, pheasants and wild turkeys seem to actually enjoy milo, most songbirds avoid it by kicking the ground. It sits there, attracting the attention of starlings, rodents and other revelers.
If you don’t like those guys at your feeders, spend a little more on your seed; get the soft mesh instead of the fluffy shoe leather.
One seed you can’t go wrong with is black sunflower. A 50-pound bag might set you back $ 40 or more (less if you find a sale), but you’ll be rewarded with visits from all kinds of delicious guests – tits, nuthatches, finches and woodpeckers, to name a few. some.
It is true that black sunflower seeds are loved not only by birds, but also by mammals, especially squirrels.
If you’d rather have squirrels not come to your party, try swapping sunflower seeds for safflower. Squirrels don’t care, but many songbirds do, provided it is introduced gradually. Just as you’d be wary if your favorite restaurant changed their menu overnight, so too are the birds.
Another common method to deter squirrels is to add ground cayenne pepper to the seeds. In short: no.
The hot, powdery substance will indeed turn squirrels away, but it can also irritate the eyes and nasal passages of birds and any other creatureâ¦ including pets that might like to sniff among the seeds on the ground. Good party hosts don’t spray their guests with pepper spray, and neither do you.
Getting back to the menu of dishes, another staple of the birdseed buffet – especially in winter – is the tallow cakes. Packed with high calorie fats, these blocks provide the energy birds need to survive the extreme temperatures of winter.
Perhaps the most important aspect of organizing a bird buffet is also the least glamorous; in fact, it is the bird-feeding equivalent of working in the dining room in a banquet hall. But it’s absolutely essential that you disinfect your feeders at least once every two weeks.
Use a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water and allow the feeders to air dry to complete the sanitizing process.
One final tip concerns the timing of your party. The species of birds that come to feeders are diurnal or active during daylight hours. Yet some of our region’s biggest festivities – namely raccoons, opossums, and deer – spend the evening or night.
So if you find your feeders messy in the morning, do the easiest thing and take them down at dusk. Place them in a metal box or trash can (which is also great for storing bulk purchased birdseed) and tie the cover on the rubber band or weigh it down with a brick or two.
Ta-da! The issue of the Midnight Foster Marauders is resolved.
Just be sure to hang up the feeders the next day so the party can start again.