Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Attracting Birds (and Keeping Them Happy)
Mother Nature does need help – especially when there’s snow on the ground and food is harder to find. Aside from filling up your birdfeeders, here’s a list of some other things you can do to be nice to birds.
1) Make some homemade suet. Melt 2 cups of lard (get it from your butcher!) and 1 cup of peanut butter together, then add 2 cups of corn meal and cool. Choose your own add-ins. Try seeds, raisins, cereal or oats. What do your birds like best? You can serve it in an hanging cage (above), or spread it on dead sunflower heads.
2) Birds need to drink water every day, and that can be a challenge in the winter when the lakes and ponds begin to freeze. If you don’t want to invest in one of those expensive heated birdbaths, there are other ways to keep your water from freezing, although it’s probably not a 24 hour solution. During the morning hours when birds are feeding heavily, you can set up a watering station, too. Take a large coffee can and take off both ends with a can opener. Punch a few holes in the can a few inches from the top end. Place the can on a sturdy, flameproof level surface and place a pillar candle inside the can. Light the candle and place a metal dish or pie pan full of water on top. If you do this a few hours every day, you can make sure that your birds get a drink.
4) Tape some snowflakes or other opaque décor to the inside of your larger windows to prevent the birds from flying into them.
5) Drive a long (3” or longer) nail at least an inch into an old tree stump. Cut the top off with a bolt cutter. Stick your old corncobs on the nail- this is a real treat for chickens, too.
6) Stop using insecticide. Birds feed on insects, so using insecticides like Neem on your property can severely affect their food supply. One type, neocontinoids, could be particularly toxic to pollinators. Weedkillers like Round-Up and other herbicides can be dangerous too.
7) Give a bird a shower - cut the bottom off a 1 liter soda bottle. Push a pin through the bottle cap to create a tiny hole. Screw the cap onto the bottle and turn the bottle upside down. Create a hanger for the bottle by punching holes on two sides of the bottle and stringing a wire through the holes. Fill the bottle with water and hang it from a shepherd’s hook over your birdbath. The water will drip from the pierced bottle cap into the bath, giving the birds a little splash. In cold weather, water that’s moving is also slower to freeze.
Birdhouses101.com, you can search by species name for the kind of house preferred by that type of bird. Some birds, such as the mourning dove, prefer nesting on a platform.
10) Baby birds are on the way. In late winter and early spring when the birds are making their nests, fill an old suet cage (see top photo) with coir, string, hair, and hay. Birds will use these materials to create their nests.
What else can we do to be nice to birds? Please add your suggestions in the comment section!