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Spring Feeders

March 23, 2012

Spring is here. And, like me, the birds in my yard are not shy about sharing their excitement.

My blooming trees have attracted a booming number of birds within a matter of days. Their chirping chatter is frequent, day after day. Although their singing wakes me a bit earlier in the mornings, I often open my eyes to see bright rays of sunshine seep through my bedroom window: A sight that makes me smile.

It's clear that I love spring, but I realize the season's surprises cannot last forever. Spring flowers will fall from trees and bushes to make room for greener, fuller canopies. So what will happen to my chirping companions when the spring blossoms cease to appear?

As I walked through my yard last weekend, I wondered how to keep the birds coming back. What do birds want from my landscape? What are they looking for when they do visit? You guessed it: Birds want food.

Anand Persad, regional technical advisor, and entomologist for The Davey Institute, says birdfeeders may attract up to 50 different species of birds, ranging in size and behavior and looking for food and safe refuge. But before you become too eager to witness your landscape's transformation into a bird-watching haven, consider the placement of your new feeder from the perspective of the birds - and your trees.

Location, location

"Think of birds first - your needs are secondary," Persad emphasizes. "It's not necessary to think of the large front window as the only location to place the feeder and watch the birds." Instead, Persad suggests choosing trees that are secluded from pet activity and other potential distractions. Disturbances, such as squirrels that jump from tree to tree seeking the bird seed, will compromise the birds' willingness to return to the feeder again.

American RobinWEB

The tree's canopy and structure are important to consider as well. "While trees with year-round foliage are ideal," Persad says, "many tree species can be used. However, small trees are not good for placement because they have sparser canopies and more swaying."

Because birds want to be secure from human and pet activity, they typically enjoy trees with substantial canopies that provide security and cover. Persad says trees such as pines, spruces, hawthorns, oaks, maples and ash all provide "good to excellent" locations for birdfeeders.

The Purchase.

The next step is choosing the type of birdfeeder to place in your yard. Before making a purchase, Persad suggests considering the purpose of the feeder: Think function before decoration. He says a house shape works pretty well, but some materials should be avoided. Not only are sharp, metal edges dangerous to birds that perch on the feeder, but also plastic and glass materials may cause birds to slip off perches. Natural wood materials work best, Persad advises.

Red-breasted NuthatchWEB

Stay Put.

Persad says it's best to suspend birdfeeders from branches instead of using devices to attach them to trees. "Think of the tree's perspective," he says. "Avoid harming the tree."

For example, feeders suspended from thick, natural fiber ropes provide sturdy, 360-degree views of the feeder. "You can see the birds from all angles," Persad says. The more access birds have to the feeder, he adds, the less they will squabble when they show up seeking food.

Maintain and Gain.

Proper feeder maintenance includes an annual inspection for loose sides, exposed nails and moldy food. "A feeder should not be a one-time thing," Persad says. "It needs some seasonal attention."

When you leave the house for an extended period of time, ask a neighbor, friend or relative to keep up with your birdfeeder while you're gone. Although birds are adaptable, it's important to frequently replace the seed and keep up with feeder cleaning and other maintenance. To prevent feed from becoming moldy, "exclude water from the feeder," Persad says.

Birdfeeders can help you - and the surrounding birds - enjoy the presence of trees. They're also part of an "holistic effort" to help better the environment. As the seasons change, you can witness the natural transition of beauty and life from the back picture window - all from the comfort of your home. As you continue to maintain your birdfeeder, you can watch the birds enjoy your landscape almost as much as you do.

NOTE: To determine the variety of bird species you can attract in your area, Persad suggests contacting your local garden center representative.

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