Basics to bird feeding in your Sonoma County backyard

“Sunflower seeds would be for smaller perching birds like finches and chickadees and titmice. Millet eaters are what we call ground feeders. With a couple of exceptions, they will be bigger, like doves, pigeons and blackbirds. They want to eat either on the ground or on something flat largely because of their size and what they’re designed to do,” Stewart said.

Birds don’t eat all day. Keep that in mind if you’re missing mealtime. During the rest of the day they may be busy preening or nesting. Birds, Stewart said, will also go to other food sources. Your feeder won’t be their only stop of the day.

“The busiest time for eating is right after sunrise and right before sunset because, unlike us, they don’t have electric lights so they can sit up until midnight.

“They eat a lot of food before they go to bed to give them energy and warmth. And that gets them through the night, which in winter can be 12 hours.

“When they wake up in the morning, the first thing they do is regroup, get together and go to the food source,” Stewart said.

Tube feeder

A good basic feeder is a tube style, equipped with perches and tiny holes for the birds to insert their beaks. This is for smaller birds like finches, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice. They come in a variety of sizes from two-perch tubes to six perches for accommodating a crowd.

An even more versatile style is a tray feeder. This is basically a flat try with a fine screen so rainwater won’t collect on the bottom. This will accommodate small and larger birds, and both sunflower and the millet eaters like doves, juncos, sparrows, jays and blackbirds.

It’s OK to mix the cuisine. Birds will naturally pick out what they like, Stewart said.

There are various accessories available, like add-on trays to capture falling seed, bells to thwart squirrels from above and keep out the rain and baffles that will slide onto poles to provide a barrier to critters like rats and squirrels that might come up from the ground.

Trudi Owings, a bird lover from Santa Rosa, said she moved her birdfeeder further away from the house when a rat scoped it out.

“He would climb right up the corner of the house. He didn’t care if we were in the window looking at him,” said Owings, who was investigating baffles to thwart unwanted guests.

Hopper style

The third style of feeder is a hopper.

“They come in lots of shape and configurations. But it’s anything you fill up that flows out into a trough or dish,” Stewart said. “Those are going to cater to smaller bids that are going for sunflowers.”

To keep the birds returning and healthy, you’ll need to change the seed periodically if it hasn’t been eaten in awhile. Seeds do go bad.

It’s also important to clean your feeders, at least once a month, to control salmonella and other diseases, as well as mold, said Tribby Leveque of the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center.

She suggests…

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