Bird feeding tips
While setting up two bird-feeding stations at Lincoln Land Community College on Wednesday, Wade Kammin put on a mini clinic for the 10 students, staff and faculty assembled.
Nearly all of the bird-feeding tips Kammin shared would be useful to anyone interested in feeding birds in the backyard this winter.
* Kammin says birdseed with lots of filler ingredients ends up on the ground, where it attracts Canada geese and English house sparrows. Birds kick it out in their search for desirable seeds, littering the ground with the leftovers.
“We don’t mind if (house sparrows) have some, but we don’t want them to dominate, and hopefully we can attract more native species,” he says.
* Goldfinches have very strong feet and can hang upside down to feed. A special feeder with the feeding hole below the perches allows goldfinches access but keeps other birds away. Kammin says other birds often intimidate goldfinches, so feeders designed to attract them should be kept 10 feet away from other feeders.
“House finches can be bullies,” he says.
Chickadees, pine siskins and some sparrows will use the upside-down feeding station. English house sparrows have been learning to hang upside-down for short periods, but aren’t a big problem, he says.
* Regular finch feeders often are filled with Niger seed that often is referred to as thistle seed.
“It’s not a thistle, but birds like it like they eat thistle seed,” says Kammin.
* Seed cylinders of high-fat, high-energy seeds and fruit for woodpeckers can last up to two to three weeks.
“They are very hard,” says Kammin. “Woodpeckers will have to chop away and hopefully house sparrows and others will be discouraged.
“Chickadees and nuthatches will break off little pieces and fly off,” he says. “There will be lots of activity to watch.”
* Special trays set up for ground-feeding birds contain seeds high in carbohydrates, such as millet, cracked corn and sunflowers.
“Use a thin layer of seed, so it doesn’t mold if it gets wet,” says Kammin.
Limiting the amount of seed also means most will be gone by evening, providing less of an attraction for raccoons.
* Feeders need to be kept clean.
“Use hot, soapy water — or a little bleach water well rinsed — once a month,” he says. Feeders will stay looking new and it is less likely that birds will spread disease at feeding stations — always a danger when birds congregate.
* Late fall actually is prime time for birds, with plentiful food and winter cold still a few weeks away. “The prairie is full of natural seeds and bushes are loaded with berries and some insects still are available,” he says.
* Give birds time to find a new feeder. “Birds are naturally cautious,” says Kammin. “They will sit in the trees and watch for a while to be sure there are no predators around.”