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Administration Home News/Information Contact Us DNR Home   

Joe Manchin III, Governor

Frank Jezioro, Director

News Release
For release:
February 15, 2005


Hoy Murphy , Public Information Officer (304) 558-3380

Contact: Rob Tallman, Wildlife Resources Section (304) 637-0245


Tips on Feeding Winter Birds


  Feeding birds is a popular and entertaining winter activity for many people, according to Rob Tallman, a biologist with the Wildlife Resources Section's Wildlife Diversity Program. "In fact, Americans spend more than $500 million a year on bird seed and $54 million on backyard bird feeding stations," Tallman said. The following suggestions will help make your winter bird feeding efforts more successful:


•  General Tips : To attract the greatest variety of birds to your yard, you should be familiar with the specific needs of each species and provide different kinds of seed and feeders accordingly. Feeders will attract more birds if they are placed in sheltered areas near trees, bushes or buildings.


•  When to Feed : If you've been feeding birds since October, they may have become dependent upon these artificial food supplies. You should continue feeding throughout the winter and well into spring (April). Spring can be a particularly difficult time for birds, as natural winter food supplies are nearly exhausted and new sources are not available.


•  Seed Feeders : The best seeds for attracting a large variety of birds are the black-oil type sunflower seeds (preferred over the larger, gray-striped sunflower seed) and white proso millet. These will bring in goldfinches, blue jays, cardinals, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees and purple finches. Seeds of this type that fall from the feeder are attractive to dark-eyed juncos and tree sparrows. Eared, shell or cracked corn will be eaten by mourning doves, blue jays, white-throated sparrows and starling. Peanut kernels are popular among titmice, sparrows and blue jays, while squash and safflower seeds are a favorite of cardinals. The best way to discourage English house sparrows and European starlings from frequenting your feeder is to provide only sunflower seeds.


•  Suet Feeders : Suet, either beef or pork, may be obtained at meat counters in grocery stores. Place the suet in a cloth mesh bag or onion sack and hang from a tree. Wire mesh suet feeders are also available commercially. This high energy food source will attract brown creepers, red and white-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, Carolina wrens, titmice, and downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers.

•  Other Foods : Stale bread (not moldy), cookie crumbs, popcorn, peanut butter and bacon drippings will also be consumed by a variety of songbirds. For a special treat, string some apple slices, small grapes, raisins, or orange and grapefruit sections together and tie them to a tree branch.


•  Water and Grit : Birds also require water during the winter months. A heated birdbath will attract many birds to your yard. There are several safe birdbath heaters available commercially that cost only pennies to operate. Sand or grit is necessary in the gizzards of birds to help grind the seeds they consume. Sand or crushed eggshells can be mixed into the food or provided at another location. The eggshells will also provide extra calcium.


•  Animal Pests : Squirrels can be a problem at the feeder because they may eat large amounts of expensive feed, scare away songbirds and even damage the feeder itself. Suspending the feeder on a thin wire or placing a circular-shaped s hield made of m etal or plastic on pole-type feeders may deter them. However, many people have given up the battle and just enjoy the antics of these ingenious animals. Dogs, and especially cats, should be kept indoors, or when outside be placed on a lead to prevent scaring away or making a meal of birds from your feeder.


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