There’s no better way to explain nature to your kids than to feed the birds, using the right combination of bird food, feeders, bird baths and shelter. Cardinals, juncos, chickadees, goldfinches and mellow morning doves are among the common species in our area.
Start off with one of the most overlooked tools to attract our feathered friends by filling the bird bath and installing a birdbath warmer. These devices are thermostatically controlled, and keep the water from freezing. Don’t worry – it’s not a Jacuzzi or hot tub – the temperature of the water will be maintained in the high 30’s. When temperatures are below freezing, your bird bath will be the only non-frozen water for birds to take advantage of. Keep the birds coming by remembering to change the water twice a week to keep it clean.
Fill the bird feeder after you fill the bird bath. Most songbirds prefer high fat type seeds such as black oil sunflower and safflower. These are best placed in hanging and ground feeders. Installing a suet feeder is a great way to attract woodpeckers, which have got to be one of the most fun birds to watch, and certainly likely to hold the attention of a elementary school kid, unless they have an iPad in their hands. A second feeder is always a good choice and if a different type is chosen, will attract other bird species. A hanging tube or perch feeder along with a flat platform style unit is a good combination.
Trees are one of the best items that we can use to keep birds visible. Many plants offer winter berries, seeds, and pods for birds and other wildlife. Consider adding four-season plants to your landscape.
Pines and other conifers offer the homeowner the chance to establish a sense of forest in the city via the droppage of fruits, needles and bud scales. Bird feeding experts indicate that there is no better way to provide shelter for songbirds than to incorporate a cedar or spruce into the landscape and place a couple of bird feeders nearby. Quite obviously, in the Midwest, all season color is a real plus as well. Shrubs such as cotoneaster, spirea, dogwood, viburnum and yew are good choices as a respite during cold winters and to protect them from predators.