It's important that homeowners are gracious and accommodating hosts to these feathered guests, particularly on bitter cold days like those currently in the forecast. The Humane Society of the United States recommends homeowners feed the birds at times of peak energy demand, such as during extreme weather, the nesting season and in late winter or early spring when natural food sources are depleted.
Birds are most likely to eat where they feel safe, so it’s important to make sure that there is nearby cover where birds can go to escape predators.
Remember to place ground-level feeders in spots where predators cannot hide easily. If the feeders are near a window, alter the appearance of the glass to help reduce window collisions.
Plastic, glass or steel feeders are preferable because they are easy to clean, as opposed to wood or clay feeders, which can be difficult to clean and may grow dangerous algae and fungi.
Heavy rain also can be a problem, so make sure the top of the feeder is covered and has drainage holes in the bottom.
The Humane Society also offers the following advice for being a good host to the birds that visit your home this winter:
• Set up more than one feeder and allow ample space between feeders.
• Choose feeders that have no sharp edges or points. Also use feeders that allow birds to perch away from the food.
• Clean feeders often by dunking them in a 5-10 percent solution of chlorine bleach and warm water for two or three minutes. Scrub with a stiff brush or a scouring pad, rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry completely before refilling.
• Rake up spilled seeds, hulls and other droppings near the feeders at least once a week.
• Keep seed dry, free of mold and safe from squirrels by storing it in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid or a sealed plastic container.
• Put out only enough seed to last several hours during times of wet weather.