Winter Fun and Friends

by Vicki H. Budge

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    Would you like to have a fun, interesting winter and make many new friends? You can by making feeding stations for woodpeckers, chickadees, blue jays, robins, or any other birds that live in your area.

    October is the best time to begin because birds need a little time to discover your food. Once they do, however, it is only fair to set food out every day, for the same birds will be counting on you all through the winter.

    Just as there are many different kinds of birds, there are also many different kinds of foods that birds like to eat. You can choose some of the following to put in your bird feeder:

    Bird seed or small mixed seeds (such as cracked corn, millet, hemp, buckwheat, or chick feed)

    Large seeds (such as sunflower seeds, soybeans, wheat, oats, corn, or rye)

    Wild fruits and berries

    Cut-up fruit (such as bananas and apples)

    Crumbs from doughnuts, bread, pancakes, or pie crust

    Cold cereals

    Suet (animal fat that the meat market might give you)

    An easy way to find out what the birds in your area like best is to put out a variety of foods and watch to see what is eaten first. If you want to attract a certain kind of bird to your feeder, find out what it likes to eat and use only that food.

    There are several ways of feeding birds, and you can choose the type of feeding station you prefer.

    A good seed tray can be made with a piece of board about two feet long and one foot wide. Nail a wood border around this to keep the seed from blowing off, or nail small branches around the edges. Fasten your bird board to a window sill or tree.

    A simple seed tray can be made by cutting out the sides of a milk carton and putting food in the bottom. Hang this from a tree branch.

    A holder can also be made by hanging a pinecone on a large tree branch and stuffing it with suet or peanut butter. Suet bags can be crocheted or simply knotted out of heavy string and tied securely to a branch. Never use a wire container for suet in a cold climate because a bird’s feet might stick to it in freezing weather.

    A combination suet and seed station can be made by nailing a piece of wood onto the bottom of a large cut branch. Drill holes in the branch to hold the suet and sprinkle seeds, crumbs, and fruit on the wood.

    Another simple feeding station can be made by poking suet around the cracks and bark of a tree and then scattering seeds, crumbs, and fruit on the ground nearby. You may want to try several types of these feeding stations in different places. But here are a few general rules to remember:

    Don’t paint, varnish, or even sandpaper your feeders. Birds prefer rough, natural devices.

    Put your feeding stations near trees or shrubs so the birds can fly to them if a dog or cat appears.

    If you live in an area where water is hard to find in the winter, be sure there is drinking water near the feeder.

    Avoid salt in choosing winter foods unless water is nearby. Salt usually makes birds (and people) thirsty!

    Then relax and be prepared to enjoy an interesting winter watching your many new friends.

    Illustrated by Ginger Brown