11/28/2012 Back to birding basics
by Joe Wilkinson, Iowa DNR
Overnight lows in the teens and 20s are a chilly reminder that the winter bird-feeding season is here. For a lot of us, it has been here for some time.
Whether you feed birds year-round or gear up as the snow flies, birds lock in your location along their daily feeding regimen. They may be summer nesters, which stick around longer, migrants passing through or winter arrivals, which spend the cold weather months here.
"Fall is the perfect time to go out and get your feeders cleaned, to make sure your water source is in place," recommends Pat Schlarbaum, wildlife diversity technician with the Iowa DNR. "Putting out the water in the fall is a proven strategy to have birds in your backyard."
I keep a sunflower feeder and thistle tube filled most of the year. From there, I follow my "firewood schedule." As I start hauling wood from the stack to the back door, the winter feeders get a soapy-water scrubbing, and regular fill ups. Safflower seed goes out. When the woodstove is fired up for more than three or four days in a row, the wire suet cages are hung and the last few feeders go up-more sunflower, thistle and safflower, maybe peanuts if the squirrels are looking the other way.
"We recommend the black oil sunflower seeds. They are getting pretty pricey, but are worth every penny," advises Schlarbaum. "Cardinals, white-throated sparrows, the more desirable songbirds all like sunflower seeds. With peanuts for the tufted titmice and nyger (thistle) for the finches, you'll have a full palette of color in your winter backyard."
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