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Friday, January 3, 2014

Help the Homebound become Bird Enthusiasts

Boredom is a very real problem with shut-ins and the homebound, especially during the winter months when cold weather and conditions may limit their social lives.

To set up a bird feeding station is a wonderful, stimulating idea to give people something to occupy their time. To sit by a window and watch the fluttering bird activity can be very interesting and entertaining for those who would ordinarily rely on the television to pass the time. Anxiety and depression over failing health issues are common among the chronically ill and the elderly. To connect with a part of nature again can be psychologically healing and a boost for the spirits. An interest in something outside of one's personal problems is a wonderful thing.

There are various types of feeders from which to choose.
If squirrels are a problem, a hopper style is a good idea. If anything heavier than the weight of a bird sits on the perch, it lowers and closes off the feed openings.

Tube feeders are very common and many have interchangeable ports so you can use the perch type for regular seed and the slit type for using  thistle seed.

Another option for thistle seed is the tube sock. These are cheaper but don't last as long since eventually the sock gets torn. Finches love niger or thistle seed which is best offered in thistle feeders which allow them to feed upside down.

Suet blocks are very appreciated, especially by woodpeckers and nuthatches, who are so pretty to watch skimming up and down the tree trunks.

The feed we use consistently is black oil sunflower seeds. These nutritious seeds are a powerhouse of needed fat and protein for a variety of birds. On snowy days, there is a constant flow of activity from cardinals, bluejays, mourning doves, titmice, black-cap chickadees, sparrows, juncos and finches. Nothing is wasted. Any spillage of seed from the feeders themselves is soon cleaned up by those birds who don't usually perch at a feeder, such as the mourning doves.

I add a bit of what is called Flyer's Choice which is a combination of sunflower seeds, safflower, and white millet. Don't bother with the inexpensive feeds with red millet. The birds often just bypass it and knock it out of the feeder. I used to mix cracked corn with the feed for the ground feeders, but stopped because I just attracted more starlings, who then cleaned me out of suet.

If you supply food, try to offer a water source as well. The heated bird bath pictured as well as any of your feeders can be purchased from The Garden Supply catalog, but most likely they are offered at any good farm supply store or nursery. You'll need a power outlet, but what is convenient is that this bird bath is made of heavy duty plastic yet isn't that heavy. Therefore, you can move it from wherever you put it in your gardens for the summer months to a place supplying power for the winter. The cord wraps neatly inside the stand when not being used. Birds don't like deep water so I keep a rock in the middle of the bowl for them to have a solid perch. Plus the weight helps keep the bowl from tipping on a windy day.

If you have cats and let them outside, try to keep your cats inside during the busiest feeding times, which are in the early mornings and at dusk. Once birds sense danger they are less apt to visit your stations.

Below are pictures of birds commonly seen around feeders here in the Northeast, United States: 

Black-Capped Chickadee

Female Cardinal
House Finch
House Sparrow
Dark-Eyed Junco
Mourning Dove
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

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