I feed the birds all winter, and many people stop feeding them about this time of year.
As I write this, it is late April and I have had folks tell me the birds need to be finding their natural food now. I continue feeding them for several reasons.
I started seeing robins again about early March. I don’t feed them, but I do put out robin nest boxes at this time of year.
Late March, I saw the blackbirds returning. While I can’t stand starlings (which are around most of the winter), I do enjoy the grackles and the red-wing blackbirds.
They eat some of my food offerings including the seeds and suet.
I like to hear these birds sing, or perhaps screech, depending on your point of view.
But, this time of year, I also put new feeders out.
The hummingbirds should be arriving shortly. I have three feeders out already for these tiny creatures.
Susie makes the nectar with sugar and water and keeps the feeders full, refreshing it with new food every five days or so.
I also put a moat of some kind above this feeder to keep the ants off. This is some kind of container which holds water and drowns the ants if they try to climb down to get to the nectar.
Another new feeder we just put out is designed for Baltimore orioles.
Last year was the first year we had these birds come visit.
Looking back at the pictures on my phone, they arrived here the first week of May.
We had a feeder out with orange slices, hummingbird nectar and grape jelly.
These were all supposed to be favorites of the orioles.
They arrived at our house, and we saw two couples at one time, so we know we had at least four different birds at once.
They all ignored the nectar and the orange slices, but I had to refill the jelly container almost every day.
They stayed around a couple weeks and then left.
I tried a couple other kinds of jelly, but they always preferred the grape.
I just found an oriole nectar recipe in the Birds and Blooms magazine. I will be making it today and putting it out tomorrow in case we get early birds back this year.
I don’t know if it will be any better than the regular hummingbird food we use, but here it is:
1 cup grape jelly, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup white sugar, juice from half of an orange. Put all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool and put in feeder or store in the refrigerator.
A couple weeks after the orioles arrived last year, we were greeted with another bird we had never seen before.
They were rose-breasted grosbeaks.
We saw two females and one male at the same time and single males several times, so I don’t know how many different birds we had.
They seemed to just sample all of the bird food we were offering (except the nectar and the jelly).
They stayed around several days, then disappeared.
I don’t know it they were just passing through heading further north or what.
After the orioles and grosbeaks leave, I will stop putting out food for the birds (except the hummingbirds) until fall.
The bugs, worms, and natural seeds should be available to keep them all happy.
I have already started cleaning out my one bluebird house hoping to get a blue bird this summer.
I watch with my binoculars for activity at the house.
If it is a sparrow, I clean out the nest they have started every couple days.
Then I keep watching hoping that my bird of choice will enter the nest box.
Maybe this year I will have some new birds visit.
I’m hoping to see a scarlet tanager, but I don’t know if they visit feeders or not.
This is one reason I keep feeding the usual birds later than most people.
I’m hoping some migrating stranger will see a bunch of other birds having lunch and come by to see what we are offering.
Rich Creason is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer whose work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications for 40 years. Born in Anderson, he is a graduate of Markleville High School. He lives in South Madison County with his wife, Susie. He may be contacted at [email protected].