Welcome Feathered Visitors to Your Garden in Fall

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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Joan Casanova

You might not see a “birds wanted” notice in your local newspaper, but wild birds are already making decisions about which backyards they will visit this winter. What you do as the days grow shorter lets the birds know that you want their business and they have an open invitation to come back when winter sets in.

People who don’t start feeding birds until severe weather arrives may be missing out. Fall is the season to begin, even though natural foods are plentiful and birds may not spend much time at your feeder yet. They are out in the fields and woods, feasting on seeds and berries and well-fed insects.

The birds that do visit feeders in the abundance of autumn are scouting. They need to be ready when cold weather hits. Freezing temperatures will increase their calorie requirements, right at the moment that food becomes harder to get. Insects stop flying. Snow covers seeds. Ice seals away tree buds, wild fruits, and the bugs that woodpeckers and nuthatches like to find under the bark of trees.

Wild birds need to be prepared for the winter ahead. They are studying their resources in advance. Noting where food is available. Locating alternatives. Taking inventory of contingent provisions.

If wild birds discover that your yard is worth visiting, they’ll remember. And when that first storm hits, they’ll show up. Hungry. Chirpy and chattery. Red and blue and black-and-white and yellow.

On the other hand, if you wait until hard weather arrives, birds may not ever know what you have to offer. Under the stress of freezing weather, they can’t afford the luxury of exploring. They must go where they know there will be a payoff. They might not find your feeder all winter, even though it is abundantly supplied. So start offering provisions now.

What foods to offer

Keep a variety of feeders stocked with black oil sunflower seed, white millet, niger, safflower, cracked corn, and broken nuts. Offer suet in hanging baskets, for woodpeckers and bushtits. Try some chopped up fruits on a tray feeder.

There are many kinds of bird seed available at garden centers and birding shops. While it may be tempting, it may not be that economical to buy the “cheepest” seed mix.

According to the manufacturers of Cole’s wild bird seed, if you want to attract more birds, what you put in the feeder makes a big difference. If you use seed mixes with lots of low-quality fillers, the birds will kick it out of the feeder onto the ground, picking out just the choice tidbits to eat. Plus, using a high-quality seed without fillers will attract more birds—and more kinds of birds—to your feeder. And that’s what it’s all about, really. Most of us feed birds because we enjoy watching them.

Now is the time to let wild birds know they are invited to dinner—all winter long!

For more information on feeding wild birds, click here:

Cole's Wild Bird Seed


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