One of Enviro Girl’s favorite winter hobbies involves a $15 outdoor bird feeder. Every day feathered visitors fly in for a meal, hang out on the tree branches and fence posts and add color to the dull winter landscape. Cardinals, finches, jays and sparrows congregate throughout the day and enliven the view outside Enviro Girl’s living room window.
Birds add diversity to any habitat which strengthens the environment. Birds are entertaining to watch, they help control insect populations and they play a huge role in propagating plant life. As nature hobbies go, bird feeding is inexpensive, easy and fun for people of all ages. In fact, Enviro Girl has purchased and set up feeders for her grandparents so they can appreciate the great outdoors from inside their homes. She cannot recommend enough the joy of a bird feeder strategically placed outside a nursing home window. If you’re looking for a way to brighten the day of anyone bedridden or confined, bringing birds outside their window is a great way to do it.
How can you create a backyard bird paradise? Even in the dead of winter, it can be done and here’s how:
1. Set up a bird feeder. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can hang a feeder from a tree branch, mount a feeder to a fence post or even set up a feeder atop a spike or post you’ve driven into the ground. You can build your own feeder (click here and here for tutorials) or purchase one at any hardware store or garden center. Bird feeders cost $10 and up depending on the materials used. Enviro Girl favors a basic wood feeder with Plexiglass sides so she can keep an eye on seed levels.
2. Fill the bird feeder. A couple of times a week Enviro Girl has to refill one large bird feeder hanging on a maple tree branch. She uses a seed mix for songbirds. You can find seed mixes appropriate to any type of bird you’re trying to lure into your back yard. Bigger birds (such as crows, pheasants, grouse, doves and jays) prefer sunflower seeds and cracked corn in a mix. Smaller songbirds (such as sparrows, grosbeaks, finches and cardinals) prefer smaller-grained seed mixes, including millet, thistles, milo and flax. A ten pound bag of decent wild bird seed mix costs about $8.00.
3. Refill the bird feeder. Enviro Girl lets her garden go to seed in the fall for the birds to enjoy, but she knows the birds need extra help when the first frost arrives. She keeps her bird feeder filled from late October through May. Birds really depend on her feeder during temperature extremes, migration periods, and in late winter or early spring, when natural seed sources are depleted. She doesn’t feed birds during the summer. Enviro Girl cautions you to keep the feeder full. Birds are loyal and will keep returning if you feed them, but if you’re inconsistent, they’ll stay away from your yard.
4. Provide birds with cover. Shrubs and trees keep birds safe from predators. Even a few back yard trees will create a bird sanctuary. A few weeks ago Enviro Girl recommended leaving your old Christmas tree in your back yard to increase available shelter space during the winter.
5. Find a bird field guide-book. These range from $2 (used) to $20 and will enrich your enjoyment. Enviro Girl keeps a guide-book and binoculars by the living room window so the family can identify species visiting the bird feeder. They keep a checklist of what they’ve seen, too. Guide books also provide basic information about different types of birds, including habitat, feeding, migration and mating habits.
6. Get creative. You can add a bird bath or bird house. You can put out orange slices or simple syrup in a hummingbird feeder. Bird feeding’s a hobby that’s only limited by a person’s curiosity and creativity.