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Holiday Treats for Birds

Seed-Ornaments

We have a fun variety of seed ornaments available in our stores during the holiday season.

There’s a wide range of foods you can offer on a bird Christmas tree that will attract a wide variety of birds and the more you decorate a tree the more species you will see.

Make sure that your bird treat tree is visible from a comfortable spot in your house. What a delightful sight on a cold wintry day! It helps to pick a tree close to your regular feeders, which will help the birds find it more quickly. Evergreen trees are best because they also offer shelter for the birds. If you don’t have a suitable tree consider a large upright branch, a potted evergreen tree or an inexpensive artificial tree instead. Avoid using thin thread or fishing line to hang the edible ornaments, which can become a tangle hazard for birds.

Decorate the tree early, since it may take a few days to a couple of weeks for birds to discover the holiday goodies. Be sure you have extra seed ornaments so you can replace them as needed. If you don’t want the squirrels to share in these treats we have seed bells made of Golden Safflower, which squirrels tend to dislike.

At All Seasons Wild Bird Stores we have a wide selection of birdseed ornaments. You will find birdhouses decorated with seeds and tidbits of fruit for a special treat. Our cute little seed and nut stars are solid seed, containing black oil sunflower, pecans, peanuts and millet and features a red raffia hanger. The seed hearts work well in any temperature, there’s no mess, and no waste and they never melt. We have individually wrapped seed balls with premium blends will draw a wide variety of your backyard birds. All of these, plus seed wreaths, bells and hearts are also great gifts for neighbors, teachers or friends.

By Guest Contributor MELISSA BLOCK

 

Winter Water

American Goldfinches in winter by Jim Weisman

American Goldfinches on a heated birdbath (Photo by Jim Weisman)

Want to attract more birds to your yard this winter? Supply a source of open water!

When temperatures drop, birds are in a constant struggle to maintain their body temperatures. A steady source of fats and proteins will help to nourish and fuel birds’ metabolic needs and keep them warm. But also important—a source of water that is accessible (i.e. not ice) and doesn’t require using body heat to melt it (i.e. snow). The solution: open water provided by a heated birdbath.

Take a look at the video below to learn more about providing open water to backyard birds in the winter!

Trumpeter Swan or Tundra Swan?

They swim gracefully (or feed ungracefully) in the water. They fly gracefully, in small to large V-formations. They honk or whistle. They are definitely swans, with their long necks and stout bodies. But of the two types of swans seen locally, either Trumpeter Swan or Tundra Swan, which is which?

If each type of swan is side-by-side, distinguishing them is easy. Trumpeter Swans will always be the larger birds. But what if they are not side-by-side? Then look and listen!

Look in the summer and winter.

In this region, you will be seeing Trumpeter Swans. They nest here in the summer and move very little in winter migration, only needing open water with available vegetation to survive. Visit Mississippi Drive Park (aka Swan Park) near Monticello to see wintering swans; the warm power plant water provides the open water they need. Tundra Swans, however, spend their summers in the high Arctic and winters at Chesapeake Bay.

Listen and look in spring and fall.

Both species are flying and feeding during migration at these times. Both will fly in a V-formation, which can range from one (5 or so individuals) to multiple family groups (100+ individuals). Both will feed in groups, dabbling in lakes or rivers in search of food. Both will call when feeding or flying.

Trumpeters will give their characteristic HONK, usually a single note but sometimes up to three. When they are swimming, look at their face; the black color between the bill and eyes usually form a wide “cat’s-ears” shape. They almost never have yellow spots along with the black.

Tundras will give various whistles and hoots, which when given by multiple individuals, can sound like the battle scene of an old western movie. In fall, they can be seen regionally in large feeding groups, especially on the Mississippi River between Alma, Wisconsin and Lansing, Iowa, before continuing their southeastward migration. When they are swimming, look at their face; the black color between the bill and eyes usually form a narrow “snail’s antennas” shape, almost always with accompanying yellow spots.

Whichever variety of swan you encounter, enjoy these winged wonders immensely!

By Guest Contributor MARK NEWSTROM

Transition Season

REPRINTED FROM OUR BIRD’S-EYE VIEW ARCHIVES: SEPT/OCT 2017

Minnetonka Manager Carol Chenault shares how she readies her backyard for the change in seasons

Addressing Nectar Feeders

As I bid the Baltimore Orioles farewell the first week of September, the transition to fall backyard bird feeding begins. Taking down the oriole feeders, washing them well with soap and water and disinfecting them with either bleach (1:10 ratio of bleach to water) or white vinegar (50:50 vinegar to water) is an autumn routine. However, I keep my hummingbird feeders full of fresh nectar. Though male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds leave in early September, some females and juveniles remain until late October.

Cleaning, Rearranging

Offer peanut pick-outs

I do like to rearrange things (just ask the staff at the Minnetonka store), so the departure of the orioles leads to feeder cleaning and rearranging of the feeding stations. It’s a good time to disassemble, soak and scrub feeders and clean out birdhouses. Leaving some birdhouses out for the winter may provide shelter as a winter roost for chickadees and nuthatches. I replace the oriole feeders with feeders for suet and Peanut Pick-Outs to entice Red-breasted Nuthatches, woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees. Though disguised in their dull olive-yellow winter plumage, we do have American Goldfinches in the yard all winter. Adding a feeder filled with Nyjer™ & Chips will provide more feeding volume just in case it’s a winter that brings redpolls and Pine Siskins here in numbers. I also sprinkle some Nyjer™ & Chips on the ground for the Dark-eyed Juncos that return in September. Read More »

Fall Task: Clean Out Birdhouses

Opening a birdhouse

Why it’s important to clean birdhouses

Cleaning out the birdhouses in your yard is one way to protect your backyard birds from pests and disease while making your birdhouses more attractive for new nesting birds. The fall clean up is very important. Dirty birdhouses can harbor rodents, insects, feather mites and bacteria that can spread disease to nesting birds and their young.

When to clean birdhouses

I clean out my birdhouses in the fall. Then I leave some open to discourage the mice from nesting in there over the winter. I do leave a few closed up to provide a warm roosting boxes for birds, like chickadees. I do check and clean again in the spring before nesting season, in case some mice had taken up residency over the winter.

Supplies

Get your supplies ready before you start cleaning. You’ll need:

  1. some rubber gloves to wear
  2. birdhouse cleaner or bleach to kill the germs
  3. an unused toothbrush (good for cleaning the corners and holes)
  4. a toothpick to open up any clogged ventilation or drainage holes.

Procedure

It’s easiest if you can take the birdhouse down to clean. This is also a good time to make any repairs, such as loose hinges, protruding nails, or chipped wood. If other birds or mice have enlarged the entrance hole, now’s the best time to repair it.

  1. Remove any remaining nesting materials and any unhatched eggs and scrape off any remaining organic material.
  2. Use a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. I find it easiest to put into a spray bottle.
  3. Scrub the inside of the birdhouse well, getting in to the corners with the toothbrush.
  4. Then rinse out the house thoroughly with water.
  5. I like to leave the house open and in the sun for a few days before remounting.

By Guest Contributor MELISSA BLOCK

The Most Effective Squirrel-Resistant Feeders

In our opinion, Squirrel Busters are the most effective squirrel-resistant feeders around. Along with their ability to foil squirrels, the Busters have a great design promoting air circulation to prevent seed spoilage and are easy to clean. They’re our best-selling feeders, so our customers must agree!

Plus—The Squirrel Buster Weather Guard

The UV-protected polycarbonate Weather Guard easily attaches to the Squirrel Buster Plus feeder to give your songbirds shelter from the rain.  No tools required!

For more about keeping squirrels away from and out of your bird feeders, take a look at our Troubleshooting Critters page! 

A Seed Mix to Discourage Starlings

a small pile of Bye Bye Starling birdseed

Bye Bye Starling Seed Mix

Try Bye, Bye Starling

If you’ve had problems with the European Starlings mobbing then emptying your feeders, we have a solution for you. Our Bye, Bye Starling seed mix has black oil sunflower, striped sunflower, golden safflower and white safflower all in the shell. Starlings have beaks that were designed to open softer-shelled seeds. Starlings prefer peanuts and seeds out of the shell due to their bill shape, which is not well suited to cracking hard-shelled seeds. Most of our other backyard feeder birds, like cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers will love the ingredients and have beaks that are suitable for opening these seeds.

And, if you’re weary of starlings emptying your suet feeders, don’t miss our video about upside-down suet feeders:

Turn Your Starling Problem Upside-Down!

As the autumn migration ramps up, you may find that you have increased numbers of European Starlings passing through your backyard. Starlings’ greedy and aggressive behaviors can intimidate other feeder birds and drain your food sources. Here’s an easy tip for serving suet to your smaller clinging birds while discouraging starlings.

Starling and upside-down suet feeder

Upside-down suet feeders are difficult for starlings to use because they’re better at perching than clinging.

Seed Storage Tips

With some simple steps, you can keep your birdseed fresh and free from pests. Take a look at the following video, prepared from the advice of our Minnetonka Manager, Carol Chenault!

a small pile of birdseed

 

Late-Summer Reading List

The crazy, hazy, lazy days of late summer call for a great reading list!

Bird lovers will enjoy these selections by local resident, naturalist wildlife photographer and prolific author; Stan Tekiela.

A Year in Nature with Stan Tekiela—a Naturalist’s Notes on the Seasons

Learn from the expert in this collection of some of the 500 newspaper columns from Stan’s 20 year long Nature Smart series.

Backyard Birds—Welcomed Guests at our Garden and Feeders

The book guides the reader through the lives of the most popular backyard birds. The stunning photography captures the birds in action. For more than 30 years Stan has “fed birds not only to draw them closer, but also to observe their behaviors and learn more about them.”

white-borderWild Birds—North America’s Most Unique Birds

Showcasing 28 bird species with breathtaking photography and fascinating facts, this book is a delight. Get to know North America’s birds this summer!