Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bird Feeding, part 1

There has been a chill in the air the past few mornings, and the hummingbird population has dropped off dramatically in the last week. Sunday morning, I watched a goldfinch feeding on the dried seed heads of my Echinaceae (Purple Coneflower.) I can't ignore the signs any longer; it's time for fall bird feeding season again.

I usually stop feeding birds in the summer. At that time, I'm busy with bluebirds, hummingbirds and purple martins, and don't have the time or energy to manage seed feeders, too. Most birds can find plenty of food on their own, and I keep water available to draw them in close to the house for easy viewing. After feeding wild birds for 9 years here, the last two seasons I have had outbreaks of Mycoplasma conjunctivitis among my house finches and goldfinches, so now I try to encourage them to disperse during the summer, hoping to cut down on the spread of this contagious eye disease.

The first step in resuming feeding is to clean and disinfect everything I can. I prefer feeders like this tube style that I can take apart.

Every plastic and metal feeder gets scrubbed in hot water and Dawn dish detergent, soaked in a 10% bleach solution, rinsed thoroughly, and then dried in the sun. Then, I refill each feeder with a particular type of seed.
In this tube feeder, I use safflower. This is a high-oil seed, very attractive to cardinals and other desirable birds, and less likely to draw house sparrows. For those of you with squirrel problems, safflower is a good alternative to sunflower seeds, as it is said that squirrels don't like it. (Luckily, I have no squirrels here.) You could also use sunflower seeds or nuts in this style feeder.
Finches are my primary customer at this feeder, but it also attracts titmice and white-breasted nuthatches. Cardinals don't like the little perches on tube feeders, so I put their food, a mix of sunflower and safflower, on a platform feeder.

In future posts, I will show you some of the other styles of feeders and types of feed I use, and hopefully, some photos of the birds they attract. For more information on bird feeding, or to participate in a Citizen Science project, go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website and their Project Feederwatch page.


Lynne said...

You don't have squirrels?? sigh...

I don't hate squirrels. Really. They are smart and comical and fun to watch. It's just that they wreck EVERYTHING!

Mary said...


I'll be watching what you do. I fed the birds throughout the summer because I had time but only filled the feeders after they were empty for a day or two. When the starlings and grackles created a riot, I switched to safflower - but they loved it. As did the squirrels. Since it is so expensive, I went back to BOSS.

I use hot water with dish liquid but haven't used bleach. Thanks for the tip.