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Exploring Womanhood > Heart of the Home > Gardening > Birds & Butterflies

The Backyard Birds Wish List: Know What Feeders Your Feathered Friends Really Want
Hoppers, Platforms, Silos and Socks

(ARA) - Newcomers to the growing hobby of backyard birdwatching often buy the wrong products and wonder why so few feathered friends visit their backyards. By understanding the differences between feeders, you can begin to create the right bird habitats for your yard this holiday season.

Feeding birds is a great way to bring wildlife closer to home and according to the National Bird Feeding Society, more than 70 million people in the United States and Canada put out more than a billion pounds of bird feed each year. Winter is a difficult time for birds and feeding helps them to survive a tough time when many bird populations are in decline.

"When people purchase the right birdfeeder and place it in a bird-friendly location in their yard, they're always amazed at the amount and the variety of birds that visit throughout the year," says Kathy LaLiberte, a founder of Gardener's Supply, a Vermont-based company that offers gardening and backyard habitat.

Feeders are simply a vehicle for offering food to birds in a manner in which the birds find attractive. Not all birds like the same kind of feed from the same kind of feeder. So it's not surprising that the more types of feeders you provide, the more birds you will attract. The most successful feeding stations include an assortment of feeders at different heights to best stimulate the way birds feed in the wild. Here are the four primary kinds:

Platform Feeders. Ground-feeding birds will feed off of platform feeders that are either on the ground or elevated. Try white proso millet if you want to attract field sparrows, tree sparrows or juncos. Black-oil sunflower seed will attract a wide variety of other birds such as cardinals and grosbeaks.

The Squirrel-Proof Platform Feeder has a special grid to frustrate squirrels and is elevated off of the ground to protect birds from predators. The Songview Feeder allows you to have a close-up view of the birds as they feed.

A hanging or pole-mounted feeder will attract a wide variety of perching birds. Black-oil sunflower seed is the hands-down favorite of most seed-eating birds and will attract chickadees, cardinals, titmice and nuthatches. Some of the best feeders for sunflower seed include the Mesh Feeder, Squirrel Proof Platform Feeder, Silo Birdfeeder and Porcelain Feeder. The Top Flight Feeder lets you put three different types of seed in the same feeder. The Finch Sock is specially designed to hold thistle seed for finches.

Suet is simply pure beef fat and provides a great source of energy for birds who feed mostly on insects such as woodpeckers, bluebirds and nuthatches. Hang suet feeders from tree branches with the Star Suet Feeder, the Spring Feeder or a simple mesh bag. Most suet should only be used during the colder months. However, if you become friendly with your woodpeckers and want to feed them year-round, Gourmet Suet won't melt and is suitable to use in the summer.

Birds need more than just the food your feeders provide. They also need shelter, water and natural foods. In fact, studies show that a bird that regularly visits your winter feeders will only get about a quarter of its food there. Yards dominated by perennials, shrubs and trees will support far more birds than those dominated by lawns.

No bird-friendly yard is complete without a birdbath. Birds need water all year round for drinking, bathing and preening their feathers to ensure adequate insulation. A heated birdbath will keep the water open even when the temperature drops well below freezing. There are three options for a heated birdbath offered by Gardener's Supply, one that rests on the ground, a standing one or one that is deck-mounted.

Birds spend much of their time feeding, especially in the winter, but they also need to rest -- and nest. To keep birds in your yard year-round, provide shelter and places to raise young. Edible Birdhouses and the Roosting Pockets provide a cozy place to rest. Also, put out nesting materials, such as dryer lint, dog hair or 6-inch lengths of yarn, in the spring for birds to use. Put these materials near feeders on a tree branch, on the ground or in a Spring Feeder.

To order any of the above items or receive a free catalog, call Gardener's Supply Company at (800) 955-3370 or visit the Web site at gardeners.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information call Maree Gaetani, (802) 660-3500 x 328, Mareeg@gardeners.com.Gardener's Supply, founded in 1983, is an employee-owned company of avid gardeners providing garden-tested, earth-friendly products combined with practical information. The company offers everything from seed starting supplies and garden furniture to flower supports and greenhouses. Gardener's Supply is based in Burlington, Vt.

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