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A winter gift for birds or bird-watchers.

Delight your feathered friends this winter with a bird feeder. Give one-to a human friend as a gift, or get one for yourself. Either way, the birds benefit.

Choose from styles made of sleek acrylic with metal details. Or consider classic wood designs: they look especially at home in the garden.

Esthetics aside, keep in mind that hanging feeders made of lightweight plastic are easier to remove for filling and cleaning, though they swing more in high winds. Acrylic is easier to clean than wood but tends to scratch.

Acrylic feeders that stick with suction cups to panes of glass are fun to watch but usually have limited seed capacity. Most designs cater to small birds better than large. If you install one of these feeders, hang a curtain inside to at least partially cover the window; this should reduce the risk of birds flying into the glass.

Certain feeders are designed for certain birds. For example, the satellite-type feeder attracts small clinging species, such as chickadees and titmice. The weighted-perch model closes when a heavy bird lands but allows smaller perching birds to feed. Cardinals may use these designs, though they usually prefer a flat surface rather than a perch.

If you want to attract goldfinches, put out a feeder designed specifically for their favorite food: niger (thistle) seed.

Choosing the right seed for your birds

Seed mixes commonly sold at grocery stores (about $3 for 10 pounds) contain white proso millet and unhulled sunflower seeds-favorites for many birds. But the mixes may also contain wheat, milo, and oats-which most birds reject.

A study ftom the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that most birds relish black-oil sunflower seeds (about $10 for 10 pounds), a type rarely included in common mixes. In fact, the study showed that most birds pass up all other seeds in favor of any type of sunflower seed.

So who eats the millet? Sparrows, mourning doves, dark-eyed (Oregon) juncos, and towhees. Even so, sunflower seeds are popular with these birds as well.

This helps explain why you find birds shoveling out the seeds in your feeder to locate the few sunflower seeds. Consider putting out a feeder filled only with sunflower seeds-black-oil or otherwise. Hang a second feeder with another favorite food of the species you wish to attract. Jays favor peanuts in the shell (about $1.70 a pound for unroasted, unsalted nuts). Jays also like shelled peanut kernels (about $14 for 10 pounds), as do some sparrows. Most birds ignore cracked corn, though jays, some sparrows, mourning doves, and quail will eat it.

If you're lucky enough to have Northern cardinals in your garden and prefer them in your feeder over other birds, try safflower seeds. Most other birds won't give these seeds a second glance.

If you can't find a particular type of seed, locate sources in the yellow pages under Feed Dealers, or order from a mail-order bird supply source; we list some at right. Special treats

Suet (solid beef fat) is a great treat for many insect-eating birds, such as woodpeckers and mockingbirds, especially in winter when their natural prey is scarce. In fact, it's best to offer suet only in cold weather, when the fat is less likely to turn rancid. See holders on page 170.

Ask for suet at your market's meat counter. Melt it in a pan over low heat (or in a glass dish in a microwave oven). Let it harden in the pan, remove, and break into chunks. This step gives a firmer product that stays fresh longer. You can also get hard suet cakes, often with seeds mixed in (about $2 each), from mail-order sources and at some pet stores.

Peanut butter is an alternative to suet. Combine 1 part peanut butter with 5 parts cornmeal to form a mixture that's easier for birds to swallow.

Put out a fruit holder to attract warmweather visitors, such as tanagers, orioles, and warblers. Grapefruit and orange sections are favorites of mockingbirds and thrashers; woodpeckers, jays, and robins like apple slices.

You've got your feeder and seed; now where do you put them?

In locating your feeder, remember that birds feel more comfortable if trees or other forms of shelter are close by. If cats prowl the area, try to keep the feeder out of pouncing distance, at least 5 feet away from shrubs.

Remember that fallen seeds can sprout into wicked weeds. When possible, place your feeder over a paved surface (that leaves you with only a sweeping chore). Or lightly bake seed first to prevent sprouting. Spread seed about 1/4 inch deep on a cooky sheet and bake in a 300' oven for 4 minutes.

Clean feeders often; old, moldy seed can endanger the birds. Hulled seed and cracked corn tend to deteriorate faster than seed still in the shell. Don't let debris collect beneath the feeder where it may rot or attract mice and rats.

Mail-order sources for feeders, seed

Feeders are sold at hobby and pet supply shops, nurseries, and nature stores. Most of the following sources sell a wide selection, unless noted; some sell seed and suet, too. All have free catalogs.

Alsto Handy Helpers Company, Box 1267, Galesburg, Ill. 61401 ; (800) 447-0048. Small selection includes redwood lantern feeder.

Audubon Workshop, Paddock Dr., Northbrook, Ill. 60062; (312) 729-6660.

BackYard Birds & Co., 717 S. Broadview Dr., Springfield, Mo. 65804.

The Bird House, 50 S.W. Second St., Portland 97204; (503) 227-3232. Sells only handcrafted feeders.

Bird 'n Hand, 40 Pearl St., Framingham, Mass. 01701; (617) 879-1552.

Droll Yankees Bird Feeders, Mill Rd., Foster, R.I. 02825; (401) 647-3324. Specializes in acrylic feeders.

Dancraft, Penacook, N.H. 03303; (603) 224-0200.

Hyde Bird Feeder Co., Box 168, Waltham, Mass. 02254.

Wild Bird Supplies, 4825 Oak St., Crystal Lake, Ill. 60012; (815) 455-4020.

Wild Birds Unlimited, 1430 Broad Ripple Ave., Indianapolis, Ind. 46220; (317) 257-8880.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1988
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