Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2009
Regional Report

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Locate your bird feeder so it can be viewed from a window, so you can enjoy the show.

Feeding The Wild Birds in Winter

When cold winter winds blow through the landscape, the presence of colorful wild birds will bring your yard back to life. How can you invite birds to your landscape for a bite to eat? What do they eat?

You don't need a degree in ornithology to attract birds to your yard during the winter months. You can stir up some action with bird feeders and appropriate foods placed strategically in your landscape.

Locating Bird Feeders
Place bird feeders in locations you can see from inside your home. A feeder within viewing distance of the living room window can provide hours of pleasurable viewing and decrease television viewing for you and the children.

Trees and shrubs within 10 feet of the feeder will provide shelter and protect birds from the elements and from cats, hawks, and other predators. To discourage cats from preying on birds, place pine cones at the base of the feeder. Cats generally do not like to walk on the sharp bracts of the cones.

Food for Birds
Choosing what kind of food to offer birds is like fishing. Pick the right kind of fly for the fish you want to catch. So it is with bird species. Sunflower seeds are among the most popular food sources for a wide range of birds. Black oil sunflower seed is preferred by chickadees, evening grosbeaks, finches, and nuthatches. Striped sunflower and peanuts in the shell are favorites of jays and woodpeckers.

Millet is an important food source for ground-feeding birds including sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. Niger seed, commonly named thistle, is preferred by American goldfinches and pine siskins. Niger seed is not a true thistle and therefore poses no threat as a weed in landscapes.

Suet will attract insect-eating bird species, especially woodpeckers and nuthatches. Hang it in nylon mesh bags or in metal mesh boxes.

Don't Forget Fresh Water
A fresh supply of water is essential for winter birds. Heated birdbaths or standard birdbaths fitted with immersion heating elements will keep many birds coming back to your yard.

Fruiting Landscape Plants
Adding landscape plants that attract birds and provide them with shelter will provide a haven for wild birds. Sumac, hawthorns, crabapples, buckthorn, serviceberry, viburnums, and juniper are just a few plants that I recommend to add to your landscape.

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