Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sherri's Helpful Hints

Feeding the Birds

There are times of the year that are better for bird feeding than others. For example, birds will appreciate your help more during the winter and summer than in the spring and fall months. You should feed birds year round, but don't expect to see as many cardinals, sparrows, doves, and others in the spring when the juicy insects are plentiful or in the fall while plants are producing plenty of berries and seed.

Because of their different feeding habits, various birds are attracted to different foods. Some birds are almost exclusively seed eaters while others eat both insects and seeds. Among the seed eaters are cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, titmice, sparrows, juncoes, jays, doves, pheasant, and quail. To attract juncoes, doves, and other ground feeders, put sunflower seed and smaller seed on the ground or in dishes. Finches, on the other hand, prefer hanging feeders filled with black thistle seed. If sprouting occurs under feeders as a result of feeding birdseed and this is a nuisance, try using safflower or peanut hearts. These seed will not germinate under feeders, and birds love them. Many birds love sunflower seed, but be aware that the raw, uncomposted hulls are toxic to plant growth. Expect a dead spot under the feeder (or put the feeder over a paved or mulched area). Cardinals, chickadees, and even finches like safflower seed. Squirrels, jays, and grackles don't like it, nor do most sparrows.

Probably the best way to feed the birds is to plant or conserve plant varieties that produce edible seed, berries, or nectar. Good choices include yaupon holly, elderberry, serviceberry, camphor tree, hawthorn, dogwood, persimmon, loquat, fig, eastern red cedar, magnolia, crabapple, mulberry, wax myrtle, Mexican plum, black cherry, hog plum, Carolina buckthorn, barberry, burning bush, cotoneaster, American beautyberry, hollies, mahonia, Chinese photinia, roses, rusty blackhaw, viburnum, coral vine, Carolina snailseed, sunflowers, hibiscus, lantana, Turk's cap, coral honeysuckle, poke salet, blackberries, and nasturtiums. The mockingbirds in my garden definitely have a favorite food--it is chile pequin. They eat the small, hot red peppers like jelly beans as fast as they mature. Chile pequin is a perennial in most of the state. Burning bush (Euonymus elata) is another favorite of several bird species.

Courtesy of The Dirt Doctor

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