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Feed Feathered Guests For Extra Special Holiday
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
As you prepare to entertain family for the Thanksgiving feast, why not also prepare a feast for your feathered friends in the neighborhood. Hang some bird feeders and make holiday treats for them.
We have one thing in common with many birds, and that is a love for sunflower seeds. While we eat the ones with stripes, birds prefer the black-oil type sunflower seeds. Birds like cardinals, chickadees, titmice and finches all love sunflower seeds.
Thistles are tiny seeds that appeal to finches, sparrows and chickadees. You will want a thistle feeder for these birds. I was amazed at how quickly birds notice feeders and start to partake. While filming the Southern Gardening TV segment on feeders, the little chickadees came to the new thistle feeder within a couple of hours after placing it in the yard.
The bird that showed up first, however, was a bright red cardinal. Even though the holes in the thistle feeder are tiny, he still managed to get a meal. I didn't bother telling him the books say he was not supposed to be able to feed there.
The mixes sold as wild bird feed usually have a combination of sunflowers, millet, sorghum and canary seed. As you may have been told, and I will reiterate, there will be a lot of seed germination beneath the feeder, so a little weed control will be needed from time to time.
Hang your bird feeders at different heights to appeal to different birds' preferences. Start feeding before extremely cold weather arrives. Remember that when it gets cold, the birds will rely on you to keep the food around.
To make some extra special treats for the birds, take some pine cones and press peanut butter into the crevices. Then coat the cones with wild birdseed. It has been really fun to watch the tiny birds feed on these treats.
Orange bowls make another tasty feast for birds. Cut an orange in half and fill it with bird seed and hang it in trees with cord or twine.
Your children like fruit-flavored, O-shaped cereal and the birds will, too! Make strands of cereal loops on string and hang these in the trees. These treats not only serve to feed the birds, but add a little extra interest to the winter backyard.
Don't forget water for the birds. As dry as it has been and still is in much of the area, birdbaths will be most welcome for bathing and drinking. Garden centers have a lot of birdbaths, feeders and seed to get you started.
If you thought butterfly gardening was fun, just wait until you start attracting an assortment of colorful birds to your yard. My son James and I keep a pair of binoculars handy because there is always some new bird (new to us) showing up to feed. We are now armed with a bird guide and encyclopedias as we try to identify the feasting birds.
Birdhouses have become the rage ñ from the very simple single-story bungalows to the decorative gourds and those that look like churches, schools and even antebellum homes. I have seen some birdhouses that almost make me wish I could live there. I have also seen birdhouses that cost more than some cars I have owned.
While bird feeders, houses and baths are fun for the family, I also would encourage you to incorporate plants in the landscape with berries or fruit that birds consider a delicacy. Some of the best are the yaupon holly, possum haw holly, wax myrtle, dogwood and American beautyberry.
As the holiday season approaches and we expect guests to arrive for the celebration, we can have special guests in the yard as well, by adding bird feeders, baths, houses and native shrubs with berries.