Minna loved to be outdoors. She spent her days exploring the wilderness around her and teaching her children to love and respect it. Minna was especially interested in birds. She was the official Federal Bird Observer for the Jefferson County area. It seems only appropriate that our first GOLM (Get Outside Like Minna) is bird themed.
Why are bird feeders important?
Late winter/early spring is the time when birds are in most need of feeders. Migrating flocks return to the northeast and find the ground still snow covered. Bird feeders provide them with the nutrition that they need to survive.
GOLM # 1: MAKE A BIRD FEEDER
Step 1: Find the Birds
Get outside and become a bird watcher. Take a notebook with you and write down the names of the birds you see outside. Keep a tally of how many times that species appears in your yard so you know what bird feeder would be used the most.
If you don’t know the name of the bird, take a picture! You can look the bird up in a Bird Book at the library, search for it online or download a Bird Identification App. If you are new to Birding, the Merlin app is a great one to use. It is free and is aimed at the complete beginner/novice bird watcher. You can actually upload a picture you took to the app and it will give you a short list of possible birds. This feature works both on and offline so it can be accessed anywhere you go!
Step 2: Learn Bird Feeder Safety Tips
Like all great topics in science, there is controversy on whether bird feeders are a benefit or a problem for the bird community as a whole. If feeders are not hung or maintained properly, diseases can spread between birds and our feathered friends can become very sick.
Here are a few quick Bird Feeder safety tips:
- If you are using a reusable bird feeder (i.e. one that is not made out of an orange or a pinecone), it is important to clean it several times a year with 10% non-chlorinated bleach solution.
- If hanging a nectar feeder, do not add red dye.
- Select your seed carefully. Avoid mixes that have a lot of ingredients or include red millet, oats, and flax.
- For more information on creating and hanging bird-safe feeders check out this link! https://www.audubon.org/news/to-feed-or-not-feed
Step 3: Buy the Seed
- Every Target in America carries this line of seed:
While there is nothing harmful about this particular seed, it may not be best for your backyard feeder. Birds LOVE sunflower seeds. They love it like you love your favorite food. Now imagine you have the option of eating that favorite food or other options surrounding it? What are you most likely to do? If you are me, you are going to eat that ice cream and leave the rest behind. I mean really, who needs fruit when there is ice cream!
- Instead, consider creating your own low-cost mix full of your backyard bird’s favorites!Here is the seed breakdown: (All of these seeds can be purchased at stores like Target, Country Max and Petco) Seed Picture Credits: Countrymax.com
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds:
Birds find them easy to open and they have high-fat content, which is good for winter birds.
Birds really enjoy this seed. For the most part, squirrels don’t like the taste, which makes it a good choice for those of us who only want to feed the birds.
Is a great seed type if you have a lot of goldfinches in your yard. It does require a different type of feeder, so make sure to check out the link in Step 3: Make Your Feeder before you purchase the seed!
Corn is loved by all including deer, squirrels and other rodents. If you decide to offer cracked corn, do it in small quantities. Never buy corn in plastic bags and don’t put any more in your feeder that can be eaten by the birds in one humid day.
Millet: There are two kinds used in Bird Seed Mixes White Millet: A favorite for grounding feeding birds
Red Millet: A cheap filler that birds won’t eat.
Peanuts: Should also be avoided because they attract a lot of animals we shouldn’t be feeding like squirrels, bears, and raccoons.
For A Great Guide to Bird Feeding check out Feeder Watch
Step 4: Make a Bird Feeder
- Collect a pinecone from outside.
- Cover pinecones in honey or peanut butter
- Roll your pinecone in your seed of choice.
- Attach a ribbon and you are done!
Get More Creative!
If you would like to create a bird specific bird feeder or something that is a little more involved, check out the links below!
Step 5: Hang Your Bird Feeder
Decide where to hang the feeder. You want to make sure you can see it and that it is in a safe location. Feeders are actually the safest when they are hung within three feet of the window or at least thirty feet away so that birds do not risk injury or death by running into the glass at full speed. Evergreens are actually an excellent place for a bird feeder because they provide a lot of protection for the birds while they eat.
If you want to learn more about where to best place your feeder, check out https://www.allaboutbirds.org/where-to-put-your-bird-feeder/
Step 6: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Handiwork!
For more information on bird feeders check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Feeder Watch at https://feederwatch.org
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Until next time, happy exploring and make sure to Get Outside Like Minna!