The last few days have been really exciting, bird-wise, as hawks, ducks, geese, loons and many small passerines (e.g. kinglets, sparrows and finches) are on the move! Winter is coming whether we like it or not and those hardy northern birds have decided it is time to migrate. North winds and cool nights have caused an influx of tens of thousands of birds into our area.
This week Evening Grosbeaks, which have been virtually absent for several years, are here in good numbers. The other day 58 stopped in my yard to feed! Redpolls, another small finch, arrived on October 25th as well to join the Pine Siskins and Goldfinches already here. Blackbird flocks are sometimes huge here in the fall: I’ve recently seen 750 Grackles in a single flock! Juncos and White-throated, Song, Fox, American Tree and White-crowned Sparrows are here in great numbers as well.
So all this means you should get your feeders out and filled, if you haven’t already. But before you do, here are a few tips:
- Clean your feeders with a light bleach and water, then, once they are totally dry and don’t smell like chlorine, fill them and put them up.
- How many feeders should you put out? It doesn’t matter it’s up to you, but be aware, one type of feeder doesn’t serve all birds because different birds have different feeding preferences and like different foods.
- Use any seed mix you like. I favour different mixes which include as little millet as possible and as much sunflower as you can afford. I find the smaller black sunflower is favoured by more birds but they certainly will eat the larger sized sunflower seed as well. I add mixed seed to them for an all-round treat most birds like. On the ground I spread rolled/cracked corn, as the sparrows, doves and cardinals thrive on it and it is very inexpensive. Finches like Niger seeds in tubular feeders. And don’t forget the woodpeckers: put out suet blocks to serve their palate!
- Choose a spot to give you a clear line of sight to your feeder(s), so you can enjoy watching the birds.
- Place your feeders so they are not under dense cover, as predators can and will sneak up on them and take some for dinner! Placing them in the open, about 1-2 meters from heavy cover, allows the birds to flee to safety but is just far enough so squirrels have trouble leaping onto them from adjacent branches. Set them no less than 1.3 meters off the ground, again so squirrels can’t jump up on them.
- Do not place them between 1 and 2 meters of the house, as the birds may fly into your windows and perish. It’s okay to have window ledge or window mounted feeders, as the birds are right beside the window and if they fly off suddenly they can’t gain enough momentum to hurt themselves should they hit the window.
- If you have large areas of glass, hang something on the inside (e.g. light curtains or blinds) to prevent bird strikes. You can also consider installing patterns on your windows to protect birds. For some great tips and ideas visit https://flap.org/.
- If you have a cat, please keep it indoors: and no, cats do not NEED to be outside, they do just fine if kept indoors.
Both the Townships of Uxbridge and Scugog have bylaws in place, making it unlawful to let your cats roam at large. This is an important consideration, since billions (yes you read this correctly) of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians are killed annually by family and feral cats in North America. The City of Kawartha Lakes has specifically exempted cats from their bylaw. I hope they reconsider, as the impact to native species is so devastating and so unnecessary!
Okay, you’re ready. The feeders are up and the birds are here: so let’s sit back and enjoy the show!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at www.avocetnatureservices.com and on LinkedIn and Facebook.