Feeding wild birds is a popular pastime-especially with gardeners. Yet, according to research done by the Wild Birds Feeding Industry (WBFI), one of the top reasons people decide never to start feeding wild birds (or decide they are going to stop feeding them), is because of the mess that accumulates under the feeders. Here are some ways to enjoy feeding the wild birds in your garden, while still keeping things neat and tidy beneath the birdfeeder.
One key to keeping things tidy beneath feeding stations is to minimize the amount of waste created in the first place. An easy place to start is with seed mixes. Economy mixes tend to contain a high ratio of extra ingredients that birds simply ignore by tossing to the ground. These mixes also tend to attract large numbers of nuisance birds, which can create "flocks of messes." Native birds seldom favor filler seeds that cannot be found locally in the wild, because they don't recognize them as being a part of their diet. It's often cleaner and cheaper to buy 2 or 3 different types of seeds in bulk that local birds are known to enjoy, than to put out bag after bag of less expensive seed mixes that remain largely uneaten.
It's possible to attract a variety of backyard birds without using any seeds at all. For example, nectar attracts hummingbirds, jelly is favored by orioles, and woodpeckers love suet cakes. Premium suet cakes are also now formulated to withstand temperatures as high as 100 degrees.
Another strategy for reducing waste is to install multiple feeders around the garden. More birdfeeders mean more room at each station, which means less tussling about and flinging seeds.
Squirrels are fun to watch, but when it comes to wasting seeds, they are the worst offenders. Make sure you protect your feeders with a baffle or other device that keeps squirrels feeding on the ground.
Many feeders are now designed with built-in "feeding trays". These trays catch seeds as they fall and make for easy clean-up, but they are not fool-proof. Boxing in a 4x4 inch area around the feeding station using landscaping blocks or timber is a much better solution to keeping seeds contained. By creating a 4-6 inch barrier, seldom will seeds ever spill over into the yard, yet it still provides you with plenty of access for cleaning. Let sprouted seeds grow, or add in a little dirt and plant some sunflower seeds of your own.
The best way to prevent seeds from sprouting is to cut off their access to light and moisture. This can be done by applying newspaper, cardboard, or landscaping fabric underneath feeders and then covering them over with a layer of woodchips, coir or stone. As an alternative to mulch, paving over the the area using tiles, or patio bricks will keep the area looking looking neater and provide you with a flat surface for easy cleanup.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
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