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A Great Way to Give Something Back to Nature: Feed the Birds

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feed the birds in your backyard(ARA) - Birds bring year-round enjoyment to a lot of people -- but wintertime can be a particularly trying time for them. Gardeners and bird-lovers alike can make life a little easier for our feathered friends this winter by providing some of their basic needs: food, shelter and water.

The bird-lovers at Garden Artisans offer the following guidance for enjoying birds in your backyard all year long.


As winter approaches and the natural food supply for birds dwindles, and those that do not migrate south need help. There are two ways to provide food: through bird feeders and by growing plants around your yard that offer fruits, seeds and a habitat that birds love. By offering different types of seed or feed, you will attract different types of birds; and the type of feed you choose determines the type of feeder you will want to use.

Black oil sunflower seed is the best seed to attract a diverse group of birds to your feeder, including chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds and jays. To attract insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches, offer suet in the wintertime. Ground feeding birds like juncos, sparrows, towhees and mourning doves prefer cracked corn scattered on the ground or placed in an elevated tray.

Plants to add to your landscape include service berry, dogwood, fir, hawthorn, sweet gum, crabapple, pine, coralberry and fruit-bearing viburnums. Seed-producing flowers that will attract birds include aster, blanket flower, cone flower, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, California poppies, goldenrod, marigolds, phlox, salvias and zinnias.

Feeder tips:

* Plant or hang the feeder so you can watch birds from a comfortable location, but also keep in mind their needs. Birds need an escape route, so make sure you place the feeder near shrubs or evergreen trees so they can make a quick get-away. Woody plants with thorns, such as roses or hawthorn, are helpful to birds because they provide refuge from predators such as house cats.

* Keep your feeders clean to prevent diseases and deter pests. Disinfect occasionally with one part chlorine bleach and nine parts lukewarm water and dry thoroughly before refilling.
* Once you start to provide food for birds, continue throughout the cold season. It's best to provide only one type of feed per feeder. Birds feeding at feeders with mixed seed discard the seeds they do not want while selecting their favorites.

* Do not feed birds spoiled leftovers, salty snack foods or sugary cereals.


Shelter can be provided in many ways, including bird houses or open nest boxes. As winter days grow longer after solstice, birds get ready to mate and nest, so it is time to start thinking about putting up a bird house or nest shelf. And remember, bird houses not only make great gifts for birds but humans rank a unique and quality bird house right up there too.

Choosing a bird house will depend on your goal. Do you want a great looking garden ornament or are you looking to attract a certain type of bird? All birds have their own particular preferences. For example, robins will not nest in an enclosed box but prefer a nesting box with a shelf, while wrens and bluebirds are attracted to single unit, enclosed bird houses. And yet other birds prefer a particular type of tree or shrub to make their nest.

Birdhouse Tips:

* Face the entrance hole to the north or east to prevent the birds from overheating if summers are hot in your area.

* Mount bird houses on poles or posts rather than nailing them to trees or hanging them from limbs, making them less vulnerable to predators.

* Don't put bird houses next to bird feeders

* Clean your bird house yearly using a mask and gloves


Providing water can make a big difference in the number of birds visiting your yard. If birds must fly long distances to find water, they may choose to stay near their water source rather than coming back to your feeder or yard.

The easiest way to provide water is by maintaining your bird bath year round. This could mean filling the bird bath several times a day, which is not always practical. The easiest method is to have a heated bird bath. Heaters are completely safe, but make sure they have an automatic shut-off feature if the bath goes dry, which can happen on windy days or if there are too many birds drinking from the bath. The plug must be attached to a grounded (three pronged) outlet -- preferably a GFI (ground fault interrupt) outlet. This will eliminate the risk of electrical shock. The heating element also should be covered in some way. If yours is uncovered, it would be good to place a piece of shale over the top to prevent any birds from burning their feet. In addition, the birds will enjoy perching on the warm rock, especially the mourning doves.

To view a large selection of bird feeders and houses, bird baths, obtain suet recipes and to learn more about plantings to attract wild birds, hummingbirds and butterflies to your backyard, visit

For more complete information on which birds are attracted to what seed and which seed works best with which feeder, visit:

You will find suet recipes at this url: and a lists of plants that will help you create a bird oasis at this url:

Courtesy of ARA Content

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