DEAR JOAN: I recently put in a beautiful birdfeeder in our garden. I filled it with a mix of premium bird feed and nyjer seeds, to attract goldfinches. No birds came, so I put a big seed bell on top as a lure. No birds.
What’s going on? I actually don’t see many birds around at all.
Jon Scherbart, Morgan Hill
DEAR JON: There are a couple of reasons your fancy restaurant isn’t attracting any customers, and they both are likely related to location, location, location.
Finding the perfect place for your feeder can be tricky. You want it to be near trees or shrubs so that the birds can have a place to rest after eating or wait for their turn, and allow them to quickly hide from predators.
On the other hand, you don’t want it too close to the trees or shrubs because limbs can provide a convenient jumping point for squirrels and rodents and can allow predators to sneak up on the feeders under the cover of branches. Expert birders recommend a distance of about 10 feet. You also want to put the feeders away from high traffic areas in your yard.
Because you say you aren’t seeing many birds in the area, that could be a sign that your neighborhood is not bird friendly. There could be too many wandering cats, gardeners who are over-using insecticides and not enough plants that naturally attract birds. You might want to consider adding some flowering plants or hedges and setting up a birdbath.
If you are feeding nyjer seed, it’s best in a sock feeder.
Lastly, be patient. It can take birds a while to find the feeder, adjust to its design and then feel comfortable enough to visit. In the meantime, keep the seed fresh — the recent rainstorm might have soaked the seeds, which quickly will mold and turn toxic.
DEAR JOAN: After reading about the chickadees and their nesting box, I thought again about a wonderful nest box a daughter made for me. Its roof is covered in pennies — cute — but the heart-shape opening is about 1 inch by 1 inch. The interior of the box is about 7 cubic inches. The bottom of the box is nailed in.
I’ve never put it up, and wondered if I’m right that it’s probably not usable without more carpentry. I’d appreciate your thoughts!
Kathleen Bonner, Nipomo
DEAR KATHLEEN: We do love our decorative birdhouses, but the birds are not as fond of them. The color and added doodads can attract unwanted attention to a nest.
By all means, display your beautiful birdhouse, but don’t expect it to be used.
DEAR JOAN: We have a hummingbird feeder out, and (birds) come every now and then, but not many. What is a good way to get them back and does it matter if the food is red?
Tina Corso, St. Johnsville, New York
DEAR TINA: There is debate on whether red food coloring in hummingbird nectar is harmful, but the consensus is it’s not needed, so best to avoid it.
Red, however, is the key color for attracting hummers to your yard. You can set out pots of red geraniums or decorative items that are mostly red or hang red flags around. Installing a water feature — they prefer showers over baths — also can make your yard more welcoming.
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