Saturday, February 18, 2017

Feeding More Bird Species

Sometimes people ask me about feeding birds and I have very little information to offer. I've never been very interested in having bird feeders in my yard, partly because I assumed that seeds were the only thing you feed birds. And the bird species that come to seed feeders are only a few of the species in the area. But recently my friend Chuck Sexton told me about feeders he makes out of partial tree limbs that attract most of the other songbirds like warblers, kinglets, woodpeckers, and wrens! It's a bit ambitious, but if you'd like to attract and feed a greater diversity of birds in your yard, I encourage you to give this a try. Here's a picture of the finished product with a Carolina Chickadee feeding on it:

And here's Chuck's email he sent me describing these different feeders and the mix they contain, along with a couple more pictures.

Hi, Mikael.

I’m attaching images of the recipe for the peanut butter mix and a typical log feeder that I built.  The original concept and recipe were received from Paul and Georgeann Kyle of Travis Audubon Society.  Just in case someone can’t view these images, here is the recipe for the peanut butter mix, originally named “Mama C’s Cardinal Cookie Dough”.

Peanut butter mix:

3/4 cup “crunchy” peanut butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 cup cracked corn

Cream together shortening and peanut butter.
Stir in cornmeal, oatmeal, and cracked corn; mix thoroughly.
Fill holes in the log feeder.

—  I make up a large batch at a time.  For instance, I multiply the above portions by 4, thus I use 3 cups of peanut butter to 1 cup of shortening, etc.  After filling the feeders, I then store the remainder in a plastic tub in the frig.
—  I typically put these feeders up when cold weather arrives in the Fall and use them until it warms up in the Spring.  In Texas summer heat, this pb mixture melts too quickly.

Log Feeders:

—  Any good branch in the range of about 2” to 3” in diameter will suffice.  Length can be anywhere from 1 to 2 ft in length.
—  Drill holes 1” to 1-1/8” in diameter about 1” deep in the log, placed at least 6” apart and spaced all around the log.
—  Drill a narrow hole in the top of the log to accomodate the shaft of a screw hook.  (Trying to screw in the hook without a pre-drilled hole is tough.)
—  I’ve made feeder logs from cut pieces of juniper, cedar elm, hackberry, and oak.  Any wood with some roughness to it is useful.
—  Use dried or cured wood; fresh cut branches may ooze sap; rotten wood will lose the bark and may fall apart too soon.
—  After a year or two of use, the wood tends to get thoroughly soaked with the oils of the mixture.  They can’t be easily washed or cleaned so discard and make new ones!


—  I hang the log feeders from the eave of the house (in front of windows, of course) and from the horizontal beams of a porch.  Most of them dangle from a length of link chain at a level that is convenient to reach for retrieval and refill.
—  As with any bird feeder, finding a location out of the reach of squirrels and raccoons is important.  These mammalian guests will clean it out in just a few minutes, gnaw on the feeder, and/or knock it down and drag it away.  For the feeders within reach of squirrels, I use baffles I bought at Wild Birds Unlimited.
—  Having a baffle over a log feeder also keeps rain off the feeder.  I’ve seen birds feeding during a rain storm, siting happily at a feeder under a baffle.


You can expect most of the woodland birds in the neighborhood to visit these feeders once they find them.  For instance, on a typical winter day, I see the following at these feeders:  cardinals, chickadees, titmice, kinglets, wrens, warblers, jays, and woodpeckers.  Even the White-winged Doves try to feed from them.  (For that reason, I don’t use logs with “built-in” perches.)  House Finches, goldfinches, and House Sparrows tend not to feed at them, prefering the seed feeders instead.  Aerial foragers like flycatchers and ground foragers like native sparrows and robins won’t visit the feeders.

Enjoy the birds!

Chuck Sexton

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