Saturday, December 4, 2010

Backyard Birds and Squirrels

All summer long I enjoy watching my wild birds and squirrels in the back yard. They can be a lot of fun and very entertaining to watch and figure their hierarchy of who gets to eat first.

I did have some problems with the squirrels getting into the bird feeders instead of eating their own food but, they were pretty entertaining at that. I posted pictures on my website.

Then I also realized that the larger birds, the Crows and Jays, were scarfing down the squirrel food so the squirrels were getting into the smaller birds food. Some squirrels actually got inside the one feeder so they could eat in peace and be protected from the rain too!

I thought that squirrels hibernate in the Winter and that birds flew South, but that's not necessarily true. So I did a little research on squirrels and bird feeding and found these things:

  1. 1. Ground squirrels, like chipmunks and prairie dogs, hibernate in their tunnels in the Winter. Tree squirrels are active all year long. I have tree squirrels, so I will keep feeding them.

    2. Crows and Jays prefer peanuts in the shell - unsalted and roasted, not raw. If you provide those, they will leave the other food for the squirrels and smaller birds alone.

    3. Birds will hang out all year long if you give them food and may even begin to depend on your services.

    4. It's okay to feed breads but most probably don't have all the nutrients the birds need so be sure to supplement your breads with actual birdseed.

    5. Most birds that feed in feeders prefer sunflower seeds and will "brush away" all that other stuff that is in the mixed seed, which usually ends up all over the ground and eventually will grow if the birds (or mice/rats) don't eat it up.
    a. Black Sunflower seeds are among the most versatile of all bird foods. Small and easily cracked, the seeds have a high fat content that many birds seek. Chickadees, nuthatches, finches, blue jays and cardinals will all come out in number for black sunflower seeds.
    b. Cracked Corn is ideal for drawing in large, ground-based birds. Starlings and quail are two species that adore cracked corn.
    c. Millet, the small, yellow pellets, are popular in bird seed mixes and will be eaten by a large variety of species, including wrens, sparrows and doves.
    d. Thistle is a small and thin black seed that is so narrow it requires special feeders. A thistle feeder will bring finches out in great numbers
    e. Safflower, with its thick shell, is particularly well-suited to larger birds and those with tougher beaks. Safflower should be fed in open trays, so the birds will have room to crack open the tough outer casings. Safflower is popular with doves, sparrows and cardinals.

    6. They make bird baths with "heaters" in them so the birds can have water all year long. (I have a heated dog water dish that I will fill with water and put out of reach of the dogs so the birds can get a drink in the snowy/icy times. It worked great for the dogs but since they spend most of their time inside instead of outside, they don't use it any more.)

Also, before nesting time, put out pieces of lint, hair from your hairbrush and the like so the birds can use it for nesting material. You can put it in a suet cage so it's easier for them to find and use, plus then it's not scattered all over the yard.

The dogs have gotten used to all the birds and squirrels in the backyard. Even the ever-vigilant Luke doesn't chase or try to scare away as often as he used to, although he will go to the trees and bark at the squirrels and the squirrels chatter back at him - probably taunting him since he can't reach them! LOL I have to admit that I like it when I open the back door and hear all the birds chirping away from the bushes, it, at times is quite noisy out there! I've gotten so used to their songs, that when I open the door and hear nothing... it's kind of eerie!

Okay, that's all I learned but I wanted to put the info somewhere that I could find it again, which is the main reason I started a blog to begin with! LOL If you have any other tips or information to share, let me know and I'll add it or start a new blog.

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