Monday, July 13, 2009

Wildlife Feeders

Wildlife can not exist without the four components that comprise their habitat: food, water, shelter, and space. Your property may not be large enough to provide all of the habitat needs for the kind of wildlife you wish to attract. However, you can offer one or more of these habitat components, even in a small backyard environment. Providing a variety of feeding stations will give wildlife, both residential and migratory, added incentive to visit your property. Wildlife feeders can provide an opportunity to view wildlife from the comfort of your home. The most popular types of wildlife feeders are those for backyard birds.

Because this is the most common type of wildlife feeding, there are a wide variety of wildlife feeders to choose from. However, wildlife feeders can also be provided for other species such as pheasants, bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, butterflies, and moths. When food supplies are scarce, such as in the very early spring or during bouts of severe weather, wildlife will rely more on your feeders. Do not worry that the animals will become dependent on your feeders. If you have to stop feeding for a month or so, they will find alternate sources.

The combination of habitat diversity and the quality of available food are what will attract and keep songbirds at your backyard feeders. Pick a location that can be seen from your house, where the seed hulls and bird droppings won't be a problem, and that you can easily access year-round for filling and cleaning. If possible, locate the wildlife feeders near shelter such as evergreen or deciduous shrubbery that will provide protection from predators and winter winds. After you have set up your feeders you may find that you have unwanted guests. One such problem is that of other animals eating out of, and sometimes monopolizing, the feeders. Squirrels are the biggest culprits when it comes to taking over bird feeders, as they scare off birds when they are at the feeders, and often end up destroying the feeder by gnawing right through it. The simplest solution to the squirrel problem is to place the feeder on a pole away from houses and nearby tree limbs, and place a baffle on the pole. A baffle is a smooth metal sleeve or cone that prevents climbing. Other seed snatchers include chipmunks, rats, and mice. Reducing seed spillage under the feeder by avoiding mixed bird seed will deter them. Also, storing your seed in metal garbage cans will eliminate consumption of stored food.

Another problem encountered at wildlife feeders is that of predators. Avoid placing the feeders in an area that has a lot of ground cover as this provides good places for mammalian predators to hide. Cats pose a serious threat to backyard birds, especially to nestlings, fledglings, and roosting birds, as they are not natural predators. When a cat is present in your yard you are not likely to see many birds at your feeders. If possible, keep cats indoors, or use a belled collar to warn birds. Several precautions can be taken to ensure that the birds visiting your wildlife feeders remain healthy. Avoid crowding the birds in a small space, as overcrowding facilitates the spread of diseases. Keep the feeders clean of waste and food droppings. Feeders should be cleaned once or twice a month with a mixture of warm soapy water and a capful or two of household bleach. Clean more often during humid summer months and cool, wet weather to avoid food spoilage.