Home, Farm, & Garden
A sense of peace comes with listening to bird sounds and watching birds play, fly, and visit feeders. No doubt connecting with nature through bird-watching decreases stress levels.
While millions of birds fly south for the winter to seek warmer temperatures, many tough it out and remain in North Carolina. So, do not fret. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the bird-watching year-round.
Providing food for birds throughout the winter will help attract more to your landscape. And selecting the right food is important. Bill Thompson III, who founded Bird Watcher’s Digest, recommended these options for stocking winter feeders:
- Black oil sunflower seeds have a thin shell and are easy to crack. All birds will eat it.
- Peanuts (de-shelled, dry-roasted, unsalted) are high-protein and high-energy. They attract woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals, finches, and titmice.
- Suet has high-fat content. Ask your butcher if you can’t find suet.
- Good mixed seed includes substantial amounts of sunflower seed, cracked corn, white proso millet (attracts doves, cardinals, and quail), and peanut hearts.
- Nyjer/thistle seed is loved by small finches (goldfinches, house, purple, Cassin’s finches, pine siskins, and redpolls). Use a thistle feeder.
- Safflower is sold in bulk at feed stores. Place safflower in a sunflower seed feeder. Many birds like safflower.
- Cracked corn is favored by sparrows, blackbirds, jays, doves, and quail. Beware of squirrels who love cracked corn.
- Mealworms are loved by many birds, except goldfinches. Thompson suggests adding 1,000 mealworms in a tub of old-fashioned oats and distributing them in a shallow ceramic dish they cannot crawl out of.
- Fruits like grapes, apples, bananas, or sliced citrus are loved by many birds. Include raisins by chopping and soaking them in warm water to soften.
Birds also enjoy homemade treats. The National Audubon Society recommends this homemade, vegetarian suet recipe to attract woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. This lipid-rich treat is a great substitute for birds that normally feast on insects. This recipe is not recommended for outdoor temperatures above 50 degrees.
Prep time, 10 minutes;
Yields, 5 one-cup containers
or two pine cone feeders
- 1 ½ cups shortening (look for options without palm oil)
- ¾ cups nut butter (any kind)
- 3 ½ cups wild bird seed
- 1 cup quick oats
- ½ cup corn meal
- Ice cube tray
- Mix the dry ingredients of bird seeds, oats, and corn meal together and set aside.
- Combine the shortening and nut butter in a separate bowl and melt. Stir until completely combined.
- Pour the melted mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
- Spoon mixture into the ice cube tray.
- Freeze for one to two hours and place in your suet feeder.
Anything worthwhile requires work. Feeding the birds in the winter (or any time) is no different. While it’s fun to provide food for birds and watch them flock to the feeders, it’s important to keep the feeders clean to prevent harm to the birds that visit. Scrub out feeders with a 10% non-chlorinated bleach solution two to three times per year, especially between seasons. This will make the best environment for our joyful critters.
There are many types of feeder styles. Purchase one that is made for the bird(s) you would like to attract and the type of food. Another food tip to keep in mind, seed mixes filled with fillers such as milo makes a mess under the feeder because most birds sort the milo out. The forgotten milo seeds can create a sludgy mixture that can make the birds sick. Avoid milo filler seed mixes or clean up the excess promptly. Look for seed mixtures containing fillers such as cracked corn and millet for better results.
Have fun and enjoy your bird-watching!