Winter Bird Feeding

I feed the birds in winter because it makes me feel good to do it and the birds certainly seem to enjoy it as well.

Squirrels certainly take advantage of the situation, but seem to be much less interested in the feeders that do not contain sunflower seeds. Squirrels can also be stopped by blocking their access to the feeders, but that takes some ingenuity on your part because they are both smart and agile.

At home we have six feeders with suet/seed blocks in two of them and a seed mixture (no sunflower) in the other four. At our cabin we have 25 to 30 feeders featuring suet/seed blocks, straight sunflower seeds, mixed seeds and fine seeds such as Niger. After hunting I also hang out moose shoulder blades and lots of moose meat scraps with fat attached. The moose bits can be squeezed into the wire mesh suet boxes or just hung over branches, but should be high enough to avoid attracting foxes or coyotes. Meat and fat can also be hung in the plastic mesh bags that oranges come in.

For the cabin I buy a big bag of the inexpensive cat kibble and the whiskey jacks are on the porch every morning waiting for some kibble to be poured into the level frying pan I have hanging from a porch rafter. Sparrows and chickadees also get into the kibble crumbs when the whiskey jacks are done. I quite often refill that pan over the day. The squirrels also like the kibble and it wasn’t long before they had figured out how to access it.

Feeding on the ground under the hanging feeders are a regular group of grouse, which alternate with varying hares. The grouse and hares are usually present at very first light and also at dusk.

It is common to have 50-60 various birds at the feeders and on the ground cleaning up the spillage. It is common for us to see sparrows, chickadees, juncos, groups of 15-20 bright red grosbeak and their mates, some siskin, redpolls, the occasional magpie and of course ravens – who like to sneak in and tip over the feeders to eat from the ground.

A variety of different feeders are available in the big-box and pet supply stores; in addition, they can easily be made from well-rinsed bleach or cooking oil containers. A lid or pot hung upside-down over a smaller dish makes a very sturdy feeder.

Suet blocks are frequently on sale in boxes of 10 or 12 at a much reduced price. You can make them at home if you have the time and the inclination, save your bacon grease or shortening after use – or just buy cheap lard and melt it in a large pan. Add enough seeds to thicken the mixture and let it cool until almost solidified. There are a few ways to make this mixture accessible: spoon this onto balls and put in mesh bags, roll large pine cones in the mix or when close to hardened, cut it into pieces to use in the wire-mesh suet boxes.

Ravens are very hard on anything containing suet. They will destroy it in minutes, so hang it where it’s harder to reach, such as under an eave or on an inner branch of a willow bush or other shrubbery.

In order to not provide an attractant for bears, I do not put out bird feed from late April until late August.

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