February is for the birds
Posted On: 02/08/2017 - 12:06pm, Posted By: Emily Imhoff, Collections Manager - Zoology
This is National Bird-Feeding Month, and the month of the Great Backyard Bird Count! To help you celebrate this month, we have some bird feeding tips, AND we are holding a special raffle in the Duke Energy Children’s Museum. Stop by the museum this month and sign up to win a beautiful cedar wood bird feeder and a starter bag of seed, courtesy of Newtown Feed & Supply!
Feeding wild birds is fun and relaxing for the whole family, and can help bring you closer to nature – or, rather, bring nature closer to you! Here are some tips to get you started, or maybe help you attract that one certain bird species you’ve been hoping to see.
Want to get started without anything too complicated or expensive? Get a window feeder (they stick to your window with suction cups) or a small hanging feeder and a bag of black oil sunflower seeds, and you will be good to go! Remember it may take awhile for birds to actually find your feeder, so be patient. If you don’t want a mess, get seeds that have had the shells removed.
Here are some common types of foods and the birds that love to eat them:
From left to right, black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and nyjer seeds.
Sunflower seeds – in or out of the shell, these are a BIG favorite of lots of birds! Cardinals, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, nuthatches, etc. Sunflower seeds that have the shells removed will keep your yard or patio tidy, and may attract more types of birds.
Safflower seeds – similar to sunflower seeds, cardinals in particular are said to enjoy these, but they are not as popular as sunflower seeds.
Nyjer or “thistle” seeds – these tiny black seeds are typically used in special “finch feeders” that have tiny holes. You guessed it, finches especially like these seeds! If you would like to see a big flock of American Goldfinches, put up a few finch feeders full of nyjer seeds. Siskins and redpolls also enjoy nyjer seed.
White millet – these small, round, whitish seeds are a favorite of doves, towhees, juncos, and sparrows. Note that these birds also prefer to eat on the ground, so putting millet in a feeder may not be a good idea – try scattering a small amount on a patio or below your birdfeeder.
From left to right, peanuts in the shell, shelled peanut pieces, an example of a suet cake, and mealworms.
Peanuts – in the shell, titmice and blue jays enjoy these treats. Watching a small titmouse carry off a large peanut and then hack it open is quite amusing! Out of the shell, many additional birds will eat them, including wrens. Make sure to get peanuts that do not have salt on them.
Dried mealworms – these are inch-long beetle larvae that have been freeze-dried. Birds that prefer to eat insects, such as wrens, love these treats. You can also feed them live mealworms; many birds enjoy these and will soon eat you out of house and home if you let them!
Suet cakes – this is a solid block of animal or vegetable fats that often has seeds or other treats embedded in it. Most bird species will go for a suet cake, but it is especially good for woodpeckers.
Different types of seed mixes can attract different species of birds.
Seed mixes – there are many types of seed mixes available, of different qualities. If you visit a bird-feeding store, the employees can help you find the mix that is best for you. Avoid mixes that have large round reddish seeds – this is milo and most birds in our area will not eat it!
When to feed – the best time of day for bird feeding is the morning when birds are waking up hungry after a long night of frigid temperatures. You can feed birds year-round, but it is most commonly done in the winter.
Unwanted visitors – you may find that squirrels, raccoons, and starlings (an invasive bird species from Europe) start eating more of your bird seed than the songbirds you want to feed. There are various ways to thwart them; try searching online or going to a bird-feeding shop for advice.
For more information about local birds and bird-feeding, why not stop by and visit our expert educator and bird enthusiast Dan Striley at a bird event in February? He will be at Newtown Feed & Supply in Newtown, OH on Saturday Feb 18th from 10am to 2:30pm, and then on Sunday Feb 26th in our Duke Energy Children’s Museum from 11am to 4pm. Remember, if you stop by the museum, you can enter the bird feeder raffle!
Museum Educator Dan Striley, right, and Newtown Feed & Supply’s owner Chase Champlin show off some bird feeding supplies.
Can’t make it out to an event? Try one of these links to learn more about bird-feeding: Cornell Lab of Ornithology (the study of birds) or Project FeederWatch