A great way to attract wildlife in the winter is to put out a bird feeder. Many species of bird remaining in the area throughout the season commonly visit bird feeders. Our feeders are frequently visited by black-capped chickadees, blue jays, and white and red breasted nuthatches all winter long. Depending on your surrounding area, more urban or rural, and the types of cover around the feeder, the list of birds visiting your feeding may be different.
As spring approaches more birds will return to the area on their migration north. The different types of birds visiting a feeder can change as this happens. For us, we start to notice more dark-eyed juncos and mourning doves. Sometimes we even get visits from birds we had not previously seen. Last year, it was a rose breasted grosbeak that came to visit. A bird identification guide is a handy resource to help you identify what species of birds are visiting your feeder.
There are many options to choose from when it comes to selecting birdfeed and bird feeders. Birds have different preferences on what they like to eat and where they prefer to feed. Some birds will pick at feed on the ground or on a feeding platform, like mourning doves. Others prefer to feed from a hanging feeder suspended from the ground.
Dozens of choices of birdfeed are available. Probably the most common is the black oil sunflower seed. This is a great choice to put out if you are going to choose just one type of seed. It is attractive to many species of birds and the thin shell is easily opened. Also, the high oil content of these seeds provides a lot of nutrition.
Other choices available include suet, which is animal fat that sometimes has a seed or fruit mixture added to it. It's typically hung in a mesh bag or secured in a cage. The various woodpeckers we have in our area tend to prefer suet to other forms of feed. Pure thistle seed is a good choice for attracting finches. Thistle is typically put into feeders specifically designed for it. Other seed mixtures often contain a variety of ingredients including millet, thistle, cracked corn, and various other seeds or berries. Birds will often times sort through to find the particular treat they like and ignore the others.
Besides birds, other animals often are lured in by birdfeeders. The most common are squirrels. While some people enjoy them, others can't stand them. The only problem I have with them is the volume of seeds they consume. If you have a lot of squirrels around, you may either fill the feeder more frequently or find a way to prevent them from getting at the food. Another animal that can that can be interested in bird feeders are black bears. When the bears start to get active in the spring, they will be looking for an easy meal. If you have a black bear coming to your feeder, it's probably best for you and the bear to put away the feeder till next winter.