Written by Peggy Maslow Friday, 24 September 2010 00:00
As the president of North Shore Audubon Society, I find myself often in conversations with Port Washington residents on what kind of feeders and seed to use in their yards. There are excellent books with detailed instructions such as The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds by Stephen W. Kress. See the chapter, Supplemental Feedings. Audubon has a pamphlet by the same excellent author, which you can download for free online: http://web4.audubon.org/bird/at_home/bird_feeding/selecting_seeds.html.
For those of you who want simple, clear guidelines, here are my instructions for setting up wild bird backyard feeders:
Three bird feeders will attract many varieties of birds.
1. The suet feeder, a small inexpensive square wire cage, is used only in cold weather. You buy suet cakes to insert in it to attract woodpeckers and many other birds. Make sure that the suet has hot red pepper as an ingredient. The cakes will have an orange hue. With this ingredient, squirrels and raccoons will not touch your feeder, but birds will not be bothered at all.
2. The second feeder is the Squirrel-buster, a long cylindrical clear tube with a spring that closes the feeding portals with the squirrel’s weight. It works fantastically well. There are several companies that carry it online, such as Duncraft, but Bayles Garden Center in Port Washington gives a 20 percent discount to North Shore Audubon Society members, so it will cost you less to buy it there if you become a member. Fill it with sunflower seed hearts. I like not having the shells on the lawn or patio. If you fill feeders with one variety of seed there is less of a mess since some birds will push these seeds to the ground. There are ground feeding birds, which get the sunflower seeds as they fall out from other birds’ efforts anyway.
3. The third feeder is a very cheap cylinder for Nyjer thistle seed. Squirrels do not like this seed so you don’t need a special feeder.
You also will need a birdbath, a water supply. I have one pole made by a company, Erva, that has a birdbath attachment. On the top of the pole you can attach hooks to hang the three feeders and the birdbath attaches to the pole lower down. I place the pole with the birdbath and three feeders less than six feet from my kitchen sliding glass doors and watch the birds eat with my every meal. Placing the feeders close to the house means the birds cannot build up speed and crash into the glass doors. So either place the feeders close or far and then put decals on windows that are close by so birds do not crash into them and die or become injured. I have a special birdbath attachment for winter that I plug in to keep the water from being frozen. Many people don’t go to this much trouble to have the water heated. It’s up to you how much you want to spend. It’s also important to clean the feeders and birdbath. The Squirrel-buster is dishwasher safe.
If you like watching wild birds you might consider joining Project Feederwatch at feederwatch.org, which is run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Once a week from November through March you report on a computer the numbers of the different species of birds that you have seen. This only costs you a fee of $15 for which you receive a poster of backyard birds to help you identify them.
Also go online to northshoreaudubon.org to look up where and when to join free, guided bird walks, two times a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays.