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  • Barbara Murphy

Feeding Birds in the Winter - by James Reddoch

Updated: Jan 3

Image: Mr.TinMD

The days are growing shorter and the air crisp. Deep snows and long, sub-zero nights are just around the corner. This is a time of year when many of our bird neighbors are building up a larder of seeds and nuts in preparation for the lean days to come. For birders, it is an excellent time to put out feeders. Not only does it benefit the birds, but it provides wonderful opportunities to observe a wide array of birds at close range. Here are two basic questions which are frequently asked:

1. What is the best seed for birds? You have a lot of options but pound-for-pound, black oil sunflower seeds may be your best bet. Avoid expensive fancy mixes that are often marketed as specialty food for attracting the best birds. Don’t fall for it and save your money! Also, avoid those cheaper bags that can be found at almost any grocery store. They often contain fillers like red millet which many birds will not eat. As a result, you may spend more in the long run because birds toss aside what they don’t like while digging around for the good stuff. Tip: Buy sunflower seed in 50-pound bags and store it in a sealed metal trash can to keep it dry and secure from other critters.

2. What birds can I expect to come to my feeder? Many of the birds that spend their winter in Western Maine are seed eaters. A well-stocked feeder will attract chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blue jays, and crows as regulars. Turkeys may come by daily to scratch for the leftovers that have spilled on the ground. There is also a group of wide-ranging, colorful winter finches who may find your feeders as well. Purple Finches, Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls occasionally arrive hungry from further north looking for a free meal. Oh yeah, don’t leave your feeders out overnight at this time of year. A bird feeder is to bears what beer nuts are to a New England Patriots fan - It's irresistible!

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