With the weather getting colder, people aren’t spending as much time outdoors. But that doesn’t mean we close the curtains and pretend the outside doesn’t exist. Winter is a great time to look out the windows and see the beautiful birds that remain for the season. It’s also a good time to think about providing our fine, feathered friends with nourishing food.
If your birdfeeders have been stored throughout the warmer months, go ahead and get them out and give them a good cleaning. Wash them in soapy water and then rinse in a 10 percent bleach solution. Make sure the feeders are completely dry before adding food. Also, take time to clean the feeders periodically throughout the winter. Diseases can grow in wet and moldy seed, as well as in bird droppings.
It’s important to match your birdfeeders to the type of bird you want to attract. Smaller birds such as chickadee, tufted titmouse and finch prefer the tube feeders. Larger birds such as cardinals and blue jays prefer hopper or platform feeders, and birds such as the morning dove eat seed on the ground.
We all know people like different types of food. Some of us like cheeseburgers, while others prefer a lobster tail or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The same is true for birds. Different species of birds prefer different types of food. Thistle and black oil sunflowers are good for smaller birds, cardinals like sunflowers of all types and millet is good for ground feeding birds. A good general bird feeding mix is white proso millet and black oil sunflower. Suet is good for woodpeckers and nuthatches.
You can mix it up a little by adding fruit feeders to your yard. Fruit feeders with wedges of oranges, apples and bananas are favored by orioles, bluebirds, towhees, woodpeckers, tanagers, brown thrashes, catbirds and robins.
While water is vital to human life, it also is an important feature for birds. They not only drink it, but they also use it to keep themselves clean. Clean feathers better insulate against the cold weather. If you have a birdbath heater, be sure it will shut off automatically when the water reaches about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so it doesn’t get too warm. Also, remember it’s important to keep the water and the birdbath clean.
For more information on attracting birds to the landscape see the OSU Extension Fact Sheet HLA-6435 Landscaping and Gardening for Birds at facts.okstate.edu.
David Hillock is a consumer horticulturist with OSU cooperative extension.