Attracting songbirds enlivens lackluster landscapes

Want to attract songbirds to enliven your landscape? Tips for choosing and placing the best bird feeder.

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    This feeder from Songbird Essentials catches 90 percent of spilled seed to keep feeding areas tidy.
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The backyard can seem barren and bleak in winter. But there's an easy way to brighten your backyard and fill it with color and song this winter – charm songbirds looking for an easy, reliable food source.

Birds are the most accessible and abundant of wild creatures that live among us, and every home – apartment to estate – can offer them a safe way station to refuel. To attract the greatest number of birds, choose feeders and foods that suit a variety of wild bird species.

Now is a good time to choose a location visible from your favorite window; to secure feeders with sturdy brackets, poles, or hangers; and to arrange convenient storage for your seed and supplies.

New birdwatchers may be bewildered by the huge assortment of feeders available today. A good place to start shopping is a website such as SongbirdEssentials, which can direct you to a nearby retailer or online source.

Feeders come in many sizes and styles, and fall into a few broad categories. The three feeders every backyard bird lover should have include a tube feeder to hold sunflower or nut meats, a hopper feeder for mixed seed, and a suet holder to attract woodpeckers and other tree trunk "clingers."

Tube feeders can be made of clear plastic or wire mesh. They're sized to hold peanut kernels, sunflower, or nyger seed for finches. Experts recommend filling tubes with just one type of seed so birds don't rummage through the contents in search of their favorite treats.

Spiral feeders offer three worthwhile innovations: a continuous spiral perch that allows more birds to feed at once, a locking lid to foil squirrels and a twist-off bottom for easy cleaning. A squirrel-proof wire mesh model is ideal for shelled sunflower or peanut hearts.

Suet is a high-energy fuel that helps birds survive cold winters. Tail Prop Suet Feeders attract the larger red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers with support for their stiff tails, as well as the smaller and more common downy woodpeckers and nuthatches. Pre-formed suet cakes sized to fit feeders can include seeds, fruit or nuts for extra energy and appeal.

Position feeders near the protective cover of trees and shrubs to offer feathered friends shelter from predators. A small metal trash can with a tight lid is handy for storing seed nearby and a scoop makes refills quick and easy.

Once feeders are up, the wait for the first bird can make even patient people antsy. Experts suggest sprinkling some seed in a shiny pie plate set under feeders. When curious birds come to investigate, they'll find your feeders, too.

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