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Bird feeders are fun in fall too

Bird feeders come in many varieties. To attract birds year round, keep the feeder clean and regularly maintained.1 / 2
For best birding results, the key is getting the right feeder filled with the correct seasonal food, like a millet mix for fall.2 / 2

Birding has become a popular endeavor of late and spring is considered to be one of the best times to view lots of birds making their return trip to our neighborhood. Birding, however, is a year round pursuit, and fall can be just as much fun for bird watchers.

Feeding the flight of those birds takes fuel, though, and there are many different types of bird seed that can be used throughout the year, noted The Backyard's Taylor Doll.

"Some feed and seeds are seasonal and aren't used during the colder seasons, like oriole and hummingbird nectars," explained the store manager. "Food like suet, black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower and many others thrive in the winter months."

Doll commented that black-oil sunflower seeds in a bulk, 40-pound bag are one of his top sellers, adding other seed like sunflower hearts and thistle are quite popular.

"Once you identify what type of feed you'll be using, the next thing to do is to locate the right dispenser," said Doll. "There are different feeders for different seeds. You just have to match up the feeder and the kind of feed you are getting."

Birders are as diverse as the feed and seeds they choose remarked Doll. "Some prefer watching Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Finches, while others enjoy Woodpeckers, Doves, and Chickadees."

One thing all birders seem to have in commons, though, is their desire to keep the birds coming back and critters out.

"There are many ways you can keep the unwanted visitor off or away from your feeders. Many people set booby traps or tricks like greasing the pole, or having spinners on their feeders," described Doll. "There are also a lot of products designed to help keep them away. We also have squirrel proof feeders that keep them out. It can be tough, but there are many options to keep those critters away."

Fall is a wonderful season of change and adaptation for birds, providing many opportunities to attract migratory birds, in addition to the permanent residents that visit your feeders year-round.

As seasonal food supplies change, so do seasonal food habits for birds on the go. The insect diet characteristic of many birds in summer changes in the fall to fruits like chokeberries.

The best way to feed birds is to adjust the foods and the feeders with each changing seasons.

The presence of native migrant sparrows and juncos in fall requires a greater amount of "millet mix" or cracked corn than is appropriate for summer or winter use when House Sparrows, grackles and cowbirds primarily benefit from these foods, says the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources birding web page.

Moldy birdseed and unclean bird feeders can cause birds to become sick. In wet weather, it is common for mold or bacteria to form on wet birdseed either in the feeder or on the ground. Mold can cause fatal avian diseases, notes the DNR birding web page.

Rake or sweep up fallen seeds and seed hulls under feeders to prevent bacteria from occurring on the ground. Follow these tips to minimize the threat of disease:

Clean a bird feeder, use a solution of two ounces of bleach with one gallon of water and scrub the entire surface.

Allow cleaned feeders to dry out in the sun; sunlight will help kill bacteria on the feeder.

Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned about every week to ten days during the summer.

Keep the feed dry by using a hopper-type or a fly-through feeder and always scrape out old seed that has accumulated.

To kill unwanted bacteria around bird feeding stations: Clean up all old seed and hulls on the ground under the feeders.

It is also advisable to move the feeder to a different part of the yard if sick or dying birds are present.