Fall is the time to add color to the drab days of winter. To do this, millions of people use feeders to attract birds within view of their windows. Purple finches, redpolls, cardinals, white-crowned sparrows, and many other species of birds look for easy meals on cold winter days and provide many hours of entertainment to house-bound humans.
Feeders can be as elaborate as structures built from wood, aluminum, or plastic or as simple as peanut butter smeared into a pine cone and hung from a limb. Suet feeders are easy to construct using nothing more than some mesh netting stuffed with suet and hung from a tree. This feeder attracts nuthatches and woodpeckers in particular. Platform feeders are probably the most common and easily constructed, and these feeders can attract a variety of birds.
Last year^s feeders should be cleaned out to remove residue. This not only helps the seed flow but removes any moldy seed or droppings that may pose a health hazard. Bird seed can be purchased in bulk 50-pound bags from most feed or seed stores for about 13 cents a pound.
Water should also be provided for birds. Even in winter, they like to take a bath, and drinking water is essential. Use a shallow, wide container, and don^t put more than an inch of water in. An old hub cap works well, and ice can easily be removed by tipping it over.
Probably the most underrated component of attracting birds to a yard is high-quality wildlife habitat. Shrubs near feeders make birds feel secure. If shrubs are not yet established, a used Christmas tree and branches from pruning jobs can form a brush pile. However, care should be taken to prevent the bird feeding station from becoming a feeding station for cats and other predators. Place the feeders near brush but not so near that a predator could set up an ambush. Properly placed brush can bring birds amazingly close to windows.
Birds have been surviving the winter months for millions of years without man^s help, but there is no harm in providing them with healthy, untainted food. And during an occasional blizzard or ice storm, neighborhood birds can be saved from starvation.
For more information or plans to build a bird feeder, contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, 512 SE 25th Ave., Pratt, KS 67124, or call (316) 672-5911. Also visit the department^s website at www.kdwp.state.ks.us.