With the start of winter, our feathered friends will need a little help making it through till spring. Did you know that birds are a great predictor of winter storms? If you have bird feeders, you will notice that a day or two before the storm is to arrive the birds will feed heavily and then seek protection from the weather. You won't see much of them the day of the storm, but they'll be back feeding as soon as the weather breaks. So the next time the local TV weather person says that the winter storm of the century is coming, watch the birds and they will give you the real story! Bird Feeding is a relaxing hobby, that will provide you with hours of enjoyment. To get the most of your experience, place the feeder where you have the most visibility and easy access for filling. If you can't see the feeder, you won't know when it needs refilling. There are many different types and sizes of bird feeders which determine which birds will be attracted. The materials they are made from also varies widely; metal, wire, wood, plastics and recycled materials of all types. If you choose to feed the birds, please continue until spring as they will become dependent on you! It's alright to let the feeder go empty for a day or two, but you shouldn't start feeding them and then go on vacation! We are lucky here in our area because we have such a wide variety of birds that live here year round, as well as those migrating. Birds, like people, have certain foods that they prefer, but they are not going to starve just because you don't have their favorite food in your feeder! Most song birds prefer Black Oil Sunflower Seed, as the large kernel and the high oil content help to insulate the birds from the cold. An alternative is Safflower Seed, which is a little smaller seed, white in color, that has both oil and a kernel inside. Some birds will eat shell and all so it is a low mess seed. Another advantage of using Safflower is that it has a taste that the squirrels don't like. Nyjer or Thistle is a small seed, mainly for finch and other small song birds, and also has a high oil content. The reason this seed is not called Thistle anymore is because "thistle" is a noxious weed and banned in a number of states. Nyjer is the botanical name. White millet is a small seed found in most mixes that the small birds like, but many will knock it out of the feeder looking for sunflower seed! Red millet is about the same and is found in many mixes. Milo, a hard brown seed, and wheat, a longer hard brown seed, is in a lot of cheaper mixes, but most song birds don't like and won't eat it. Corn is also used as bird seed; it's in some mixes, and also available as cracked and whole ear corn. Corn is mostly for doves, and squirrels. We carry two different wild bird mixes. Our regular mix is blended for us and contains 20% black oil, 70% white millet and 10% red millet (this was based on conservation department recommendations). Our K Plus mix has 50% black oil, and a 50% mixture of safflower, sunflower hearts, finch millet, nuts and dried fruit pieces. This mix is for attracting all song birds. The cheaper mixes that contain high levels of corn, cracked corn, milo, wheat and such will attract more pigeons, starlings and grackles. You will also end up with more seed on the ground leading to rodents paying a visit to your yard! Robins, Mockingbirds, and Woodpeckers are birds that do not eat seed. Their beaks are not strong enough to crack seeds, so these birds need fruit, berries, or suet. There are different types of suet, some with fruit, some with nut pieces, some plain suet. Suet will give birds the fat needed to help ward-off freezing temperatures. There are many different types of suet feeders. The most unusual is the upside down feeder which is designed to help keep starlings from getting all the suet. Water is important for the birds and very hard to find in the winter. If you have a birdbath, be careful not to let the water freeze as it may crack the top or base. There are birdbath heaters available, as well as birdbaths with built in heaters. You might also try heated pet bowls that work as birdbaths as well! With warmer weather, you can always put fresh water in saucers in the morning and replace it daily. Spring is just around the corner!