As opposed to a single bird feeder, a feeding station provides for the needs of a variety of birds and wildlife. By providing an appropriate arrangement of feeder styles and different kinds of food, and by including plant cover and water, the variety and number of birds and small mammals that visit the area can be increased.
There are many different types of feeders commercially available. Making your own, from extensive woodworking projects to simple craft projects using household materials, can be fun and effective.
While feeding birds and other wildlife is rewarding and educational, the greatest long-term benefit for students and wildlife would be to incorporate the planting of food-producing plants (shrubs, trees, grain) along with providing feeders.
Many people feed birds during the winter months, yet additional benefits both for birds and people are offered by providing food all year long. Young birds will visit with their parents in the spring and summer and a variety of seasonal plumages can be observed in common birds throughout the year.
Birds have definite preferences for the kinds of food they like and how they like to eat. Some birds prefer grain and seeds, some fruit, others are attracted to animal fat (suet). Different birds prefer to feed at different heights, from grain scattered directly on the ground to platforms or feeders elevated on posts or in trees.
The more variety you provide, the greater variety of birds you can attract to your feeding stations.
A critical point in planning a feeding station is to ensure that there is protective cover nearby. Shelter provided by brush piles, evergreen trees, shrubs, and bushes serves as a staging area as birds wait in line to visit the feeder. Dense cover also provides protection from weather and predators.
In addition to feeders for birds, simple feeders can be provided to attract squirrels and chipmunks. While their presence at an urban bird feeder is often a nuisance, if squirrel feeding is incorporated into a planned, maintained feeding station, it is fun and educational.
The following suggestions, tips and illustrations may help you plan your feeding station.
Commercial wild bird seed mixtures may not be the most economical or effective mix to provide for seed eaters. A mixture of black oil sunflower seeds (50%), white proso millet (30%), and cracked corn (20%) is a simple and appealing recipe for many Midwestern birds. The grains are available at most grain elevators and feed stores.
A variety of feeders at various elevations should be included. Feeders designed to dispense a single type of food, such as tube thistle feeders and basket or cage suet feeders are effective.
Simple platforms either raised on a post or near the ground provide easy access. However, the grain must be replaced when wet or snow covered. Platform feeders with roofs keep food dry and available.
Grain simply scattered on the ground near cover provides for many species.
Dispenser-type hopper feeders have the advantage of storing food to be dispensed as needed requiring less maintenance.
Visit a book store or library and select texts on bird feeding and bird feeder designs to increase your knowledge and add to your enjoyment and success.
Be sure to include water at your feeding station.. Simple homemade or purchased bird baths are good options.
Locate a feeding station or individual feeders where they can be easily observed. Bird feeding is intended as a “people” project as much as a wildlife management project. The real joy of bird feeding comes from watching, not just feeding. Many feeders can be located classroom windows. Windowsill feeders provide a very close-up experience.
Bird feeding and watching are among the most popular wildlife hobbies. There are dozens of good books and references that deal in great detail with observation, feeding, and study.
As simple and rewarding as a feeding station can be, be aware there are potential obstacles and problems. Local stray cats and hawks may prey on visitors, birds may occasionally fly into windows, and less desirable birds and mice can appear, creating minor setbacks in an otherwise rewarding project.
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