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Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Wildlife in the Yard

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

How do you handle wildlife in your yard? Do you welcome the birds, squirrels and other critters or do all you can to discourage them from visiting? If you are a birder, you can expect to see four legged critters visiting often. The bird feeder and open water are just as appealing to squirrels, raccoons and others as it is to the birds. Visiting birds feed in a variety of ways. A lot will perch and feed directly out the feeder, being neat and tidy. Others will sort through the birdseed and dried fruits, scattering what they do not want to eat on to the ground below. That may not necessary be bad, since other birds are ground feeders and appreciate the fact that food is now available from the bird feeder. The birdseed on the ground and in the grass becomes a meal then for squirrels and others. If you are not an avid birder and are thinking about feeding our feathered friends this winter, understand that you should start before the cold weather gets here so they know there will be food all winter and then do not stop until next spring. With that comes the commitment and understanding that you will have visitors besides the birds at different times during the day and night, big and small.

There are many styles of feeders that are been designed to allow only certain birds to feed using a particular kind of food. There are also feeders designed to regulate how many birds can feed at a time or close up based on the weight of the bird. You can go through many pounds of birdseed in a feeding season if you use a generic feeder.

What you feed also influences the birds that will visit your feeder. The multipurpose birdseed mix will attract the most birds, but likely leave you with the most mess on the ground too. Just like the rest of our world, please read the label to find out what kind of seed and percentage of those seeds is in the bag before you buy it. It will take a while to attract your favorite birds if you have not had a feeder before or in a newer neighborhood were shelter is a bit lacking.

Even if you are not feeding birds this winter, the larger furry friends will show up from time to time anyway. Raccoons seem to develop a route to cover as they search for a winter meal. Your yard may not offer up anything, but they will pass through anyway on their way to the next destination and get temporary sidetracked if they see something they believe might be a meal and then move on. Squirrels will find food elsewhere and come into your yard to bury it for later as long as the temperatures allow before the soil freezes. Squirrels will come back all winter long digging under the snow looking for what they buried earlier. The bottom line is you will get visitors to your yard regardless, more if you feed the birds.

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