Dig It! Feeding Birds in Winter
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
October 13, 2010
We all enjoy seeing birds during their migrations and, perhaps especially, during winter. Feeding birds draws them closer to us so we can identify them, plus helps them survive the season. Birds can be messy eaters and drop seeds to the ground under the feeder; these seeds may germinate the next year. While we would like to think all the seed in our bird feed bag is pure, research conducted at Oregon State University found the seed from 10 common brands of bird feed contained more than 50 types of noxious weed seeds. In a study, they found that 30 weed species, such as bindweed, velvetleaf, and ragweed, sprouted under bird feeders. These weeds can then spread to nearby fields and gardens.
Millet is an important food source for ground-feeding birds including sparrows and juncos. Niger seed, commonly named thistle, is preferred by American goldfinches and pine siskins. Niger seed is not a true thistle and therefore poses no threat as a weed in landscapes. Peanuts are enjoyed by nuthatches, chickadees and a variety of woodpeckers.
There are ways to prevent noxious weeds from getting started: use a tray under your feeder, select bird foods that wont sprout, such as sunflower hearts, peanut butter, raisins, mealworms, and plain suet cakes; or look for baked wild bird seeds at your garden center (baking kills weed seeds). For more information on preventing weeds from spreading from your bird feeder, go to the Weed Science Society of America at http://www.wssa.net or call 800-627-0629.
Note that to discourage cats from preying on birds, place pine cones at the base of the feeder. Cats generally do not like to walk on the sharp bracts of the cones.
A fresh supply of water is essential for winter birds. Heated birdbaths or standard birdbaths fitted with immersion heating elements will keep many birds coming back to your yard. During a warm spell, clean the bird bath.
Remember that you can use your own trees and shrubs as bird feeders by
Smearing suet in the branches or making into balls combined with bird seed,
Coating pine cones with peanut butter and bird seed, then hanging from branches,
Wrapping strings of popcorn, cranberries or raisins around tree or shrub branches, and
Hanging fruit slices.
The next Sage and Snow Garden Club meeting will be Tuesday, October 19 at the Sublette County Weed and Pest Office, 12 South Bench Road (367-4728), Pinedale. Come at 4:30 pm for social time and 5:00 pm for the business meeting. Contact us at P.O. Box 2280, Pinedale, WY, 82941, by email at email@example.com or call 307-859-8606. To find out more about the Garden Club, go to www.pindealeonline.com and click on the link under "clubs".