Bird feeding faux pas? 5 easy, no-fret fixes
Special to The Citizen Telegram
Fabulous food, pretty presentation and attention to detail can earn you a reputation as an amazing host among your human guests. But when you serve your feathered friends, are you committing a feeding faux pas that may prove unforgivable?
Birds may be small, but they pack long memories into those little craniums, and they won’t soon forget if you serve the wrong food, make a bad feeder choice or allow uninvited squirrels in on the action. Certain feeding missteps, however, are fairly easy to fix.
Faux pas No. 1 – Serving junk food.
You wouldn’t invite your friends over for a dinner party and serve them a bucket of take-out fried chicken, would you? Well, that’s essentially what you’re doing if you serve birds human food like bread, donuts or cookies, or stock feeders with seed mixes that are made up mostly of millet, other fillers or low-quality seeds.
The fix: Fill feeders with quality options like suet cakes, dried mealworms or premium seed blends. Suet and dried mealworms (less messy than live mealworms) provide much-needed energy and fat, while quality seed blends incorporate only the seeds birds really like to eat, without the chemicals and mineral oil coating of cheaper brands.
Faux pas No. 2 – Failing to keep guests safe.
Birds can be quite focused when they see feed they want. On the way to the feeder, birds can collide with windows, especially if the glass reflects the sky and trees or is very clean and clear. Window collisions can be devastating, and even fatal, for birds.
The fix: Place feeders at least 30 feet from windows to avoid disorienting reflections. If you don’t have that kind of room, place feeders just 1 to 3 feet from windows in order to prevent birds from building up enough momentum for a potentially fatal collision.
Faux pas No. 3 – Tolerating uninvited guests.
Birds aren’t the only ones who love bird feed; squirrels are big fans of seeds and suet as well, and they’re experts at stealing seed from bird feeders. Left unchallenged, squirrels can drain feeders quickly, leaving nothing for the birds. They can also cause damage to feeders and frighten away more timid bird species.
The fix: You wouldn’t attack a pesky neighbor who showed up uninvited at your backyard barbecue, and you don’t want to harm squirrels either – just dissuade them from bothering bird feeders. One option is to stock feeders with a product that features sunflower meats infused with habanera chilies. Birds can’t taste the heat, but squirrels sure hate it.
Faux pas No. 4 – Overlooking the importance of ambiance.
You hang streamers and balloons for a birthday party, and light graceful tapers for an intimate dinner party. Birds care about ambiance, too. Shrubbery and trees provide birds places to hide from predators. A yard that lacks cover is not an appealing dining destination for birds.
The fix: Choose a calm, sunny location for feeders – spots east or south of your house will probably provide the most protection from cold northern winds. Plant shrubs and trees, put up a fence or plant a hedge row to provide cover. Since you’ll have to refill your feeders daily, be sure their location is accessible and convenient.
Faux pas No. 5 – Paper plates.
Would you invest time and money in preparing a gourmet meal only to serve it on paper plates? Of course not! Yet, that’s comparable to how birds feel about a single feeder, a dirty feeder or one that doesn’t feature their preferred style of perch.
The fix: Offer multiple styles of feeders to appeal to the broadest range of backyard birds. Tube feeders are a great, classic type of feeder that works for many different birds. An open-bowl design feeder makes it easy to serve suet, nuts and mealworms. Hummingbird feeders allow you to serve the nectar that hummingbirds love.
Fortunately, it’s easy to develop bird feeding etiquette. A few simple fixes will convince your feathered friends that your backyard is the destination of choice for discerning diners this season.
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