Getting a Bird’s Eye View of Winter

One of the thrills of having a bird feeder is getting up close to our feathered friends.

If you’ve never put up a feeder, why not do it this year?

Winter is just around the corner, and the birds that don’t migrate south welcome a little food offered to them.

Here are some bird feeding tips from local birders:

Try to set up a feeder that squirrels can’t reach.

“Squirrels are actually omnivores, part vegetarian, part carnivore – they will go into birds’ nests and remove and eat nestlings in the spring,” cautions Mary Whitley.

So if you think there is no downside to feeding squirrels, or allowing squirrels to get into the bird feeders, think again.

One way to set up a squirrel-proof feeder is tostick a post in the ground, put an ice cream container upside down over that, and then hammer a small platform feeder on top.

You can also make hanging feeders from recycled pop bottles with a little feeding attachment to replace the top.

Helmut Grünberg makes a feeder by stuffing peanut butter into holes he drills in stove-size pieces of logs. Woodpeckers like them.

To prevent big birds such as magpies and ravens from taking everything, sprinkle other kinds of feed they like nearby as a diversion, but avoid anything that might attract predators that could harm your avian friends.

Set up your feeder as close as possible to a window.

As well as providing you with amazing closeup views, it will make it less likely that birds will hit your windows hard when they get startled.

What to feed them?

Black oil sunflower seeds are a winter staple for chickadees. Niger seed attracts redpolls – the little birds that fluff up in the cold – and siskins, which arrive later in winter.

There are also some good suet/seed combo feeders at the local big-box stores, and at the Feed Store. They attract woodpeckers and chickadees.

Robb Ellwood likes to feed his birds walnuts. He buys them a kilo at a time, crushes them into smaller pieces and puts them in feeders he buys at the big-box stores.

The trick with feeders is that you have to keep them stocked. It’s kind of a bargain you make with the birds for them to show up.

Bird feeders are also a good place to see rarities from the bird kingdom – species such as mountain chickadees and hoary redpolls (about one in 10 redpolls will be the more rare species).

Winter is a great season to learn about birds. As Grünberg notes, there are fewer species around, so you can really take time to learn about the ones in our backyards.

For birds and humans, this is the season to remember we can get by with a little help from our friends.

Want to learn more?

The Yukon Bird Club (YBC) has a good website to explore to learn more about birds. The on-line Warbler, the club’s semi-annual newsletter (watch for the next one soon), has wonderful colour illustrations and a quiz.

The club is also offering a number of special events this winter, beginning with a talk by Phillip Merchant, on Tuesday, November 16 at the Whitehorse Public Library.

He’ll be giving a presentation on seabirds found off the Labrador coast. It gets underway at 7:00 pm.

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