Feeding a chickadee
A Black-capped chickadee attracted by sunflower seeds

Birds are an essential part of any garden. They aid in insect control and they add beauty and sound to your landscape.

You can attract birds by planting native flowers and shrubs and providing water during the growing season.

If you plant sunflowers and leave the heads to dry, they will be picked clean almost overnight by chickadees and finches (and squirrels). A birdbath or fountain will also bring in the neighborhood wildlife, year round.

Attracting and feeding birds throughout the summer will make it more likely that birds will find and visit your feeders regulaly in the winter.

In the winter, a bird feeder will give you a chance to watch and appreciate a variety of backyard birds when there is not much else to see in the garden. Black capped chickadees are common throughout Puget Sound, as are finches, Stellar’s jays, the cedar waxwing, woodpeckers, thrushes, sparrows, wrens, goldfinches, and more.

Some fear that feeding birds in the winter will keep them from foraging for food in warm weather. This is a myth. Birds use feeders to supplement their regular diet of insects, seeds, and berries.

Each wil have a preferred food, but you can please almost any combination of backyard songbirds with a combination of black oil sunflower seed, thistle, and suet.

The main requirement for winter bird food is that it is high in fat.

Birds need the extra calories for warmth and energy, especialy when their usual food sources are buried under snow. Birds have a very high metabolic rate, and in harsh weather, it is important for them to have ready sources of high energy food.

If you have a problem with squirrels at your birdfeeder, consider drawing the squirrels away from the feeder with a separate ground station filled with peanuts. The squirrels need to eat and they will not be easily deterred. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” is a more effective squirrel strategy than sticky poles, squirrel guards, seed cages etc.  In fact, an ear of dried corn hung from a tree limb will entertain squirrels for hours, and the show will delight children and adults.

Photo by NatureFreak07 Released under Creative Commons License