f Morning Rose Prayer Gardens: For the Birds 10/28/11 Column

Saturday, December 17, 2011

For the Birds 10/28/11 Column

     Feeding the birds during the winter is an activity a lot of people delight in. Through the years, I’ve picked up several feeder tips on how to attend to the needs of birds and deter marauding squirrels. Here are just a few.

Artwork by Charlie Harper
      Large bird feeders are a convenience because you don’t have to fill them as often as the smaller ones. One issue with their size is that the seeds don’t always flow out to the edges where the birds can reach. A trick I picked up years ago uses a clear disposable 5-ounce cup (or a 7-ounce cup cut in half around the circumference). Before filling the feeder, turn the cup upside-down and center it in the bottom. Add seed, initially holding the cup in place, until feeder is filled. The seed will slide away from the plastic cup and toward the edges of the feeder.
     Filling a finch feeder with thistle seeds can be a bit messy, especially if you use a mesh sock feeder. Here is a way to make that task easier by repurposing a watering can that leaks. Remove the rose head on the spout; it might twist off or you might need to cut it off. Then, add seed and pour it out the spout into the sock feeder.
     Peanut butter-coated pine cones covered in seeds is a favorite winter food of many birds. Creating these feeders often has been a messy and time-consuming activity until I read this tip that makes the project less of a challenge. Select cones that will easily fit into the wide mouth of a peanut butter jar. Tie a string around the top of the cone. Remove the label from the jar of peanut butter and with a permanent marker write “birds” on the jar and lid. Place the jar in a pan of boiling water until peanut butter is melted. Using a microwave will often melt and warp the plastic jar; for this method place peanut butter into a glass bowl and then microwave. When the peanut butter is melted, swirl the cone into the peanut butter until coated, and then roll it in a bowl of bird seed. Set the cone on wax paper to harden. I usually cut the wax paper to fit around each cone and use it to wrap the one for storage.
     We’ve all experienced the challenges of squirrels at our bird feeders. If you use a pole feeder, buying a baffle for it can be costly. Repurpose a metal Slinky instead. Secure one end of the Slinky to the bottom of an empty bird feeder around the flange that attaches to the pole. When you reattach the feeder the Slinky will slide down the pole. The moving wire of the Slinky confuses squirrels and keeps them from climbing up to the feeder.
     The squirrels also like to devour suet blocks and can consume a small block in two days. To prevent this, purchase a large suet feeder with a mesh space about an inch in size. Center and attach a smaller suet feeder with suet inside the larger one. The birds and woodpeckers can still reach inside to feed but the larger “cage” keeps the squirrels at bay.

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