Attracting birds to your garden with bird feeders is an excellent way to teach children about birds, control the insect population in your garden and help birds get through a tough winter -- not too mention, bird feeders in the yard let you enjoy birdwatching from a comfy spot in your home or garden. Unfortunately, if birdseed gets wet, it can sicken the birds. For this reason, locate your bird feeder where it will stay dry but still attract birds.
Wet birdseed is bad news for birds. Not only can it be difficult to dry the seeds -- depending on the design of the feeder -- but if left wet, the seeds may grow moldy. Wet seeds have also been known to sprout and grow bacteria -- none of which is healthy for the birds.
Keep the birdseed dry by hanging the feeder where it will be protected from precipitation. Eaves provide good protection as long as you hang the feeder deep enough so that wind can't blow rain onto the seeds. Oftentimes, this also allows you to view the birds from the comfort of your home. Some feeders attach directly to a window with suction cups. Bird lovers often hang feeders in trees, so the birds can easily find and enjoy them without fear of the human activity on the porch. If the tree has dense enough foliage or thick enough branches, this might be enough to protect the feeder from most precipitation. You can even tuck a bird feeder under a rock or other natural overhang -- many birds look for seeds on the ground, although other animals, such as raccoons and squirrels, may also take advantage of the feeder.
The best bird feeders have built-in ways to protect the seeds from getting wet. They may have roofs that extend over the seeds, or fully enclosed seed tubes with small openings tucked into alcoves. Enclosed-style feeders -- including tubes and hopper-style feeders -- usually keep seeds dry, but if water does get into the enclosed space, bacteria and mold will thrive. In such cases, the seeds should be removed, and the feeder washed and dried. Tray feeders should have mesh, rather than wood, bottoms. This allows water and bird droppings to drain out, and air to circulate so the seeds will dry. Still, those who have tray feeders should put only enough seeds in the trays to last a day or two. Then shake out the seeds, and rinse the tray frequently to prevent old seeds from rotting or growing mold. Using a roofed bird feeder in combination with strategic placement is your best bet for keeping the seed dry.
Find out what kinds of birds frequent your garden before choosing a bird feeder. Although keeping the seeds dry is important, it's also important to choose the type of feeder that will best serve your birds. Suet feeders, for example, attract woodpeckers, jays and chickadees, among others. Nyjer feeders attract American goldfinches and common redpolls. Sparrows and finches prefer hollow tube feeders.
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