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- You can attract more birds by following our easy method of providing the Four Basic Feeders. If you are just starting out, we offer helpful tips for choosing the best feeders and the birds’ favorite foods.
- You can become an expert at identifying your feeder birds with this book. There is a beautiful color photograph of both male and female for each bird, accompanied by identification clues.
- You can understand the behavior of birds at your feeder, because for each bird there is a chapter filled with fascinating information about its life.
COPYRIGHT © 1987 BY DONALD W. STOKES AND LILLIAN Q. STOKES
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. EXCEPT AS PERMITTED UNDER THE U.S. COPYRIGHT ACT OF 1976, NO PART OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE REPRODUCED, DISTRIBUTED, OR TRANSMITTED IN ANY FROM OR BY ANY MEANS, OR STORED IN A DATABASE OR RE TRIEVAL SYSTEM, WITHOUT THE PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER.
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
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First eBook Edition: November 2008
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Stokes Field Guides
Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Western Region
Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region (CD/cassette)
Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Western Region (CD/cassette)
Stokes Field Guide to Warblers
Stokes Beginner's Guides
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Bats
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Bird Feeding
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds: Western Region
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Butterflies
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Hummingbirds
Stokes Beginner's Guide to Shorebirds
Stokes Backyard Nature Books
Stokes Bird Feeder Book
Stokes Bird Gardening Book
Stokes Birdhouse Book
Stokes Bluebird Book
Stokes Butterfly Book
Stokes Hummingbird Book
Stokes Oriole Book
Stokes Purple Martin Book
Stokes Wildflower Book: East of the Rockies
Stokes Wildflower Book: From the Rockies West
Stokes Nature Guides
Stokes Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles
Stokes Guide to Animal Tracking and Behavior
Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 1
Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 2
Stokes Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 3
Stokes Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers
Stokes Guide to Nature in Winter
Stokes Guide to Observing Insect Lives
Other Stokes Books
The Natural History of Wild Shrubs and Vines
THE FOUR BASIC FEEDERS
The most important factor in setting up a successful feeding station, is to offer a variety of foods and to place each in the proper setting. Through years of experience and research, we have found that a good all-around feeding program which will attract the most birds throughout the year must include at least four things:
1. A hanging feeder with sunflower seed
2. A ground or tray-type feeder with cracked corn and mixed seed
3. Suet feeder
On the next few pages are detailed descriptions of each type of feeder and suggestions on how to make them even more attractive to birds.
Tube feeder with sunflower seed; male cardinal, black-capped chickadee, American goldfinches, and female purple finch are enjoying a meal.
SUNFLOWER SEED FEEDER
Description: A hanging or pole-mounted feeder that contains only sunflower seed, desirable because sunflower seed is the number-one choice of most songbirds.
Birds Attracted to Sunflower Feeders: Black-capped chickadee, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, cardinal, American goldfinch, purple finch, house finch, pine siskin, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, red-headed woodpecker, common flicker, evening gros-beak, starling, house sparrow, blue jay, scrub jay.
Placement of Feeder: If you are just starting, place the feeder away from the house in an area that you can see but that is also near trees or shrubs visited by birds. Birds feel safer and are less hesitant to come to a feeder if vegetation is nearby. Once they are used to the feeder, you can gradually try moveing it closer to your house for better viewing. Put it near the windows you look out of most often. You want to be sure not to miss any exciting behavior, and you will be amazed at how much is happening once you start looking.
You can hang the feeder from a tree, mount it on a pole, or hang it from a wire strung between two supports. You must use baffles on the feeder to keep away squirrels. See the chapter "Dealing with Squirrels," p. 12.
How soon the birds discover and start using your feeder depends on many things, such as where you live, whether there is a good bird population in your area, and whether some of the birds are already familiar with feeders. Be patient and they will soon arrive.
Types of Sunflower Seed: There are three kinds of sunflower seed available, distinguished by size and the pattern on their hulls. Gray-striped seed is the largest; next is the medium-sized black-striped sunflower; and the smallest is black oil sunflower, which has all-black hulls. All of these are very popular with birds, but a recent study by Dr. Aelred Geis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that the black oil sunflower is the preferred type of most seed-eating birds. It has a thinner shell that is easier for small birds to remove and has a higher percentage of oil for its weight.
Sunflower seed is also available with the shells already removed; this is called hulled sunflower or sunflower hearts. It is somewhat more expensive than the unhulled varieties, but it is highly attractive to many species of birds, including woodpeckers. Dr. Geis's study found that it is the number-one choice of the American goldfinch, even preferred over thistle (niger) seed. An added advantage is that there are no empty hulls to clean up under the feeder.
CHOOSING A SUNFLOWER FEEDER
If you walk into any store with bird feeders, you will be greeted with a bewildering array of choices. This section will help you choose the best ones. We recommend that you invest your money in a well-made feeder in the beginning, for it will last a long time and will reward you with years of enjoyment.
Here are some overall features to consider when buying any bird feeder:
— It should be easy to fill
— It should hold lots of seed so you don't have to fill it as often
— It should be easy to take apart and clean
— Clear parts should be plastic and not glass (preferably Lexan brand plastic, which is unbreakable and cannot be chewed by squirrels)
— It should protect the seed from rain and snow
— It should have metal perches and reinforced openings if it is a tube feeder, so squirrels cannot chew them
— It should have a manufacturer's guarantee if possible
Types of Feeders
Below are examples of some types of bird feeders that are available, with recommendations based on our own experiences.
Bowl-with-baffle Feeder (above left). Advantages: Holds lots of seed; protects seed from weather; displays seed clearly to birds; enables birds to cling underneath or perch inside; accommodates many birds at once; is easy to fill and clean; comes with adjustable squirrel baffle. Example shown is the Droll Yankees, Inc., Big Top.
Tube Feeder (above right). Advantages: Is easy to fill; has metal-reinforced perches and holes that are squirrel-resistant; displays seed clearly to birds; large models hold lots of seed; allows options of attaching a tray underneath to catch scattered seed and/or a dome-like squirrel baffle above. Examples shown are Droll Yankees, Inc., models A-6 (left) and B-7(right).
Audubon Feeder (top left). Advantages: Hanging model holds more seed than most other feeders, 2.2 gallons (10 pounds); is easy to fill and clean; displays seed clearly; releases seed from all perches until feeder is empty. Comes in hanging or pole-mounted models with squirrel baffle. This feeder is made by The Brown Company.
House Hopper-type Feeder (above right). Advantages: Has an attractive rustic look; larger models hold large quantity of seed; allows several birds to perch at once. Make sure the model you get is easy to fill, and use with a baffle to keep squirrels away. Example shown is the Hyde Company's Deluxe Filling Station.
Window Feeder (above). Advantages: Brings birds up close to your window for exciting views. Example shown is from Aspects, a company that makes feeders.
See the chapter "Resources," p. 84, for a list of other bird feeder and birdseed companies.
GROUND FEEDER WITH CRACKED CORN AND MIXED SEED
Description: Cracked corn and mixed seed scattered directly on the ground or on a tray-type feeder.
Birds Attracted by Ground Feeders: Cardinal, dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, American tree sparrow, song sparrow, mourning dove, pigeon, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, scrub jay, crow, house sparrow, starling, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, red-winged blackbird, rufous-sided towhee, ring-necked pheasant, northern bobwhite.
Creating a Ground Feeder: To create a ground feeder that accommodates the most birds, scatter seed directly on the ground or place the seed on an elevated feeding tray. A hopper-type feeder, either hung or pole-mounted and filled with cracked corn and mixed seed, will also attract some of these birds, but its small feeding space limits the number of birds.
Sprinkle the seed over a fairly large area (our ground feeder is an 8-foot circular area) so that large flocks of birds can feed all at once. Also make your ground feeder near cover, such as a brush pile or evergreen shrubs. This allows birds to dive into cover if a predator, such as a hawk, appears. Many birds also have a pecking order in their flocks, and nearby shrubs provide a place for subordinate birds to wait while more dominant birds feed.
Types of Seed to Use: The main type of seed to use at a ground feeder is cracked corn. It is inexpensive and appeals to many ground-feeding birds. Cracked corn is sometimes available in a grade called finely cracked; choose this when possible, because more birds prefer it.
We also use bird seed mixtures. Mixtures are good, because they can attract a wide variety of birds. For example, mourning doves and many of the sparrows are highly attracted to white proso millet, a seed found in most mixes.
There are many kinds of commercial bird seed mixtures available. These mixtures contain seeds such as sunflower, white or red proso millet, cracked corn, peanut hearts, safflower, canary seed, milo, wheat, buckwheat, oats, and rice. Try different mixes and see which ones appeal to the birds living in your area.
Remember to keep all your feeders clean, including ground feeders. If seed is not eaten within several days, clean it up. Put out only the amount that the birds eat up quickly. Do not let seed sit around, spoil, or become moldy.
Advantages of Ground Feeders: By having a ground feeder, you can attract additional kinds and greater numbers of birds. This is because many birds, especially cardinals, juncos, towhees, and sparrows, naturally prefer to feed on or near the ground. In addition, other birds that visit hanging feeders occasionally go to the ground to feed.
Another advantage to a ground feeder is that it provides a spacious arena for you to see many fascinating features of bird behavior that do not occur at hanging feeders because of their smaller size. At our ground feeder we frequently have a flock of up to thirty juncos and tree sparrows that we see chasing and displaying, indicating their pecking orders. Mourning dove males coo and hop after females in early spring when they are courting. It is our cardinals' favorite place to do mate-feeding, their courtship ritual in which the male takes a piece of cracked corn, hops over to the female, and gently places it in her mouth.
Squirrels and some of the larger birds will come to this feeder as well, but we consider this an advantage, since they are kept busy eating the inexpensive cracked corn and are diverted from the more expensive sunflower seed offered at the hanging feeders.
Examples of ground feeders.
— Buy birdseed in large quantities; it is less expensive that way.
— Store seed in clean, dry, covered containers such as metal trash cans. If you keep these outside, lock their lids to prevent raccoons from getting at the seed.
— Use a two-quart plastic pitcher to scoop up seed and pour it into your feeder.
— Clean feeders regularly by thoroughly scrubbing with hot water and detergent. Dispose of any old or moldy food at all feeders, including ground feeders, to avoid possible harm to the birds.
Description: Suet in a wire or nylon mesh container either hung or attached to a tree trunk.
Birds Attracted to Suet Feeders: Downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, redheaded woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, starling, mockingbird.
Creating a Suet Feeder: Suet is a high-energy food source for birds and is a favorite food of woodpeckers. To create a suet feeder, all you have to do is buy suet and place it in a container of some kind that the birds can easily fly to. Suet feeders can be hung from a tree, the eaves of a house, or another feeder; they can also be attached to the trunk of a tree.
Types of Suet: Beef suet is a hard type of fat that is found near the beef kidneys and loins. It is available at the meat counter of your supermarket. In the colder months, you can use it as is right from the store. In hot weather suet melts, and it is better to use commercially available suet cakes, which are rendered and thus harder.
You can render suet yourself by cutting it into small pieces, or putting it through a meat grinder, melting it in a pan with a little water, and letting it cool in muffin tins. You can create your own recipes by adding mixed seed, chopped nuts, or other ingredients to these cakes.
A Homemade Treat. Here is a recipe that appeals to the same species of birds that like suet. This mixture has proved irresistible to our titmice and is good in all seasons.
In a blender or food processor, combine 1 part peanut butter, 1 part Crisco or similar vegetable shortening, 3 parts yellow cornmeal, 1 part white or whole wheat flour, and 1 part finely cracked corn. If it is too sticky, add more cornmeal or flour to make it manageable. Keep any extra in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
ADDITIONAL WAYS TO ATTRACT BIRDS
As you gain experience in feeding birds, you might want to add some new elements such as offering fruit, baked goods, or chopped nutmeats, or putting up more feeders. Orioles and tanagers are attracted to orange halves, which you can place on a tray or nail to a tree. Some people set up thistle feeders to attract finches. Thistle is actually niger seed, which comes from Ethiopia and India and is not related to our common wildflower thistle. It is a very expensive seed, but finches enjoy it. If you are already feeding hulled sunflower, you should be attracting finches. If not, you may want to try offering thistle. You need to buy a special type of feeder with tiny holes, since this is a very small seed.
Examples of suet feeders.
This mixture can be offered in a small hanging log drilled with holes or in a small tray, it can even be smeared on a tree trunk. In the winter we stuff it into pine cones, roll them in mixed seed, and hang them on our outdoor Christmas tree for the birds. Juncos and mockingbirds love these cones.
Types of Suet Containers: There are several types of containers in which you can offer suet.
Wire Cage. This is a box of plastic-coated wire mesh in which you place the suet. It lasts a long time, is attractive, and is easy to fill with all shapes of suet pieces.
Onion Bag. These are plastic bags in which onions are often sold. They cost nothing and can be easily replaced when they wear out.
Suet Log. This is a log about 2 inches in diameter and about 1 ½ feet long with a hook at the top and several 1-inch-diameter holes. You can hammer or press cold suet into the holes. Since birds are used to feeding on tree trunks, this feeder mimics their natural environment.
Description: Any shallow container holding water that is placed on or above the ground.
Birds Attracted to Water: All birds need water both for drinking and bathing; therefore, all the birds that normally visit your feeder may come to your water, plus you will attract many other species such as robins, thrushes, vireos, orioles, and warblers.
Creating a Birdbath:
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