Foam Lake Birding No. 65

No. 65
As of this writing, the warm weather continues and the birding scene has been holding steady with only permanent residents at our feeders. Soon the weather is bound to change and with that change some winter birds will be here. It is just a matter of having the feeders ready.
Getting a variety of birds to come to feed in one’s yard can be very simple and inexpensive, or more sophisticated and, therefore, more expensive. Feeders can be very plain or fancy with prices to match. It should be kept in mind that none of these things matter to the birds. All they want and need is some good and readily available food to eat in relative safety from predators. There is nothing wrong with having pretty feeders, but it should be kept in mind that this strictly is for the benefit of us and not the birds.
The easiest and cheapest way to feed birds is to simply sprinkle some seed on the ground or snow since most seed eating birds like to feed near or on the ground anyway. The negative aspects of this method are that seeds have to be replenished (by hand) much more frequently, and feeding birds are much more exposed to predators – particularly cats. To get around this problem one should use a wooden tray, with some sort of roof over it to protect the seed from the elements, and then mount the device on a post.
The cheapest commercial feeders, and the most common, are the clear plastic tubes with top and bottom closed. Several small holes are drilled into the sides with perches fixed just below them. The bird sits on the perch, reaches into the hole and picks out seed. By using tubes of varying diameter with different sized holes, just about any seed, from canola to sunflower, can be offered.
The plain and simple tube described above does have one major drawback – many different birds can utilize it. When expensive seed, such as nyjer, is used cost can become a concern. Birds such as House and Purple Finches are large and can clean out a feeder of nyjer seed in a single day – sooner if the flocks are larger. To reduce consumption, a variation of the common tube type feeder, often called a finch feeder, can be used. This feeder has the perches (pegs) above the seed holes thus forcing the bird to hang upside down to get access to the seed. Only Siskins, Goldfinches and Redpolls (carduelis finches) have the necessary leg strength to do this. (Chickadees and nuthatches also can hang upside down, but do not care for nyjer seed). By eliminating larger birds in this manner, consumption of expensive bird seed can be reduced significantly. The “eliminated” birds will still visit our yards to eat the other seeds – especially sunflower.
Another common feeder that can even be made at home if so desired, is the hopper and tray type feeder that slowly lets seed out the bottom as quickly or as slowly as the birds consume them. This type of feeder is very good for dispensing sunflower seed.
Finally, bird seed is oftentimes stuck together into a cake or bell (much like rice crispy cake). The bell shaped ones have a cord attached to them so the bell can be hung directly to a tree or pole; the cakes usually require a small wire cage to hold them in place. Birds readily feed from both.
All feeders should be hung 5 to 6 feet above the ground and the area below the feeder should be clear and free of any plant material. This eliminates cover for predators. Feeders should be spread around one’s yard in order to reduce squabbling among the birds. These measures provide for better and more enjoyable viewing.
This week’s photos are of a pair (male and female) Pine Grosbeaks, in the winter time, eating at a hopper type feeder full of black oil seed and a flock of Purple Finches, in the spring time, feeding at a tube type feeder - also full of black oil seed.
For the next three weeks or so, we will be away so my articles will come from Texas. When I get back, I will continue with feed and feeders.