Roberts: Some tips to attract best birds

Roberts: Some tips to attract best birds

December 20th, 2011 by Dalton Roberts in Life Entertainment

Just minutes ago, I opened the blinds of my bird-watching window, and it aggravated me to see a starling clinging to the bottom of my wire-basket suet feeder. Suet cakes are fairly expensive, and I don't care to see starlings consume them. But an hour later I saw a downy woodpecker feasting there, and it pleased me.

I guess everyone has their favorite birds as well as those they dislike. No matter how carefully you design your feeding area, you will always be feeding some birds you dislike.

My biggest nemeses are the starlings. They have ravenous appetites, and they come in flocks to feeding areas. When a flock of starlings hits your lawn, it looks like someone has just unfurled a big, black carpet.

Other birds I dislike are the English sparrows, the grackles (which I call "overgrown starlings") and crows. The reason I dislike the sparrows is they will move into a bluebird house, and you have a time evicting them. You have to keep tearing out their early nests until they choose another location. You must show more tenacity than they have and, believe me, that is a challenge.

Grackles are just big bossy starlings, and if you have a large all-purpose feeder, they will get most of the food.

Crows are very intelligent birds, and if they didn't eat eggs and baby birds, I would feed them. They got a nest of my baby blues, and I have had to make all my bluebird boxes very secure since them.

In case you want to attract crows, put out peanuts in the shell, and you will get plenty of them. They love to crack them open. So do blue jays.

To show you how much smarter crows are than blue jays, notice that the blue jays will wade right into the nuts with no caution. The crows will circle them and paw at them to make sure it's not some kind of trap.

The two ways you can maximize the "good" birds and minimize the "bad" birds is in your choice of seed and feeders. I quit feeding sunflower and limit my bird menu now to safflower, finch mix (tiny sunflower bits and thistle), shelled peanuts and suet.

Safflower seeds and the finch mix are expensive but by not feeding sunflower, it balances out. When I was feeding sunflower, the zillions of house finch got most of it. They will eat safflower, but they do not love it like they love sunflower.

Get you a mesh wire basket for shelled peanuts and suet, and you will have plenty of woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees and titmice. And, yes, starlings! But they cannot enter the basket, and they have so much trouble clinging that they soon tire of trying to access the nuts.

I continue to recommend the upside-down finch mix feeders. Goldfinch can hang upside down to dine, and house finch cannot. You can hang these feeders in close to your window and enjoy the brilliant colors of the goldfinch.

Speaking of brilliant colors, put your safflower in a feeder that is too small for doves but just right for cardinals. Safflower is the favorite of cardinals, but doves can eat a bucketful every day. Wild Birds Unlimited has a new round red feeder that is fine for cardinals but repels doves.

You may just want one big feeder that serves up an all-purpose seed assortment, but the real pleasure is attracting the birds you enjoy the most.

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