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By John W. Porco
Special to The SUN
With spring just around the corner, the Weminuche Audubon Society reminds residents that changes need to be made to their winter bird feeding routines. Of course, with bears soon on the scene, it is important to remove seed feeders altogether or to locate feeders out of the reach of bears, a task which can be very, very difficult. Bird seed, and particularly sunflower seeds, constitute one of a bear’s favorite meals and will act as an attractant to your house, which may result in damage to your home, danger to yourself or your pets and, ultimately, loss of the bear’s life.
Equally important this spring is the fast-approaching arrival of hummingbirds. Various species send out scouts to locate feeders in the area. So, if you want hummingbirds in your yard, get your feeders up by mid-April.
Feeding is easy. You don’t need fancy commercial nectars. In fact, red-tinted nectars may be harmful to the birds. Rather, just create your own food. Heat a mixture of one part plain granulated sugar to four parts of water. It is not necessary to boil the liquid, although it must be heated until all the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Again, red coloring is unnecessary. The liquid food should be stored in the refrigerator until used. And, of course, if your feeders are accessible to bears, be sure to bring them in at night. That may or may not work, since the bears may wander into your yard in the daytime.
There are many fine feeders on the market. We have found that the best have some red colored plastic on the base and perches for the birds to feed. Ants are a constant problem and some feeders have ant baffles. To avoid spoilage and potential harm to the birds, feeders should be drained every four to five days in cold weather and more often in hot weather. Any discoloration of the liquid food or appearance of mold inside the feeder warrants immediate cleaning. Pet stores sell brushes designed to fit into feeder bottles. Bottles should be scrupulously brushed and rinsed with hot, soapy water. Periodically, it is good to add a drop or two of household chlorine bleach to the wash water to kill mold and germs. However, the bottle must then be thoroughly rinsed until all traces of bleach are gone.
In addition to food, it is critical to supply water to birds, especially during our warm, dry summers. A bird bath or even just a bowl of water will pay dividends in bird sightings. However, remember to keep the water and its container clean and free from mold and germs.
Summer brings a plethora of wonderful birds to Pagosa Country. A little food and water will promote a steady stream of beauty and activity to your home.