Four and Twenty Blackbirds All in a Row
©2011 Jeanne E. Webster
Have you given some thought to having backyard guests this winter? It is a nice winter activity, so install some bird feeders and you will be enthralled all winter long within your very own bird habitat. It’s best to begin feeding in late summer or early fall to promote your yard as a food source for the feathered critters. Remember: always provide fresh seed, clean feeders, and fresh water at all times of the year. These provisions will help nurture the birds with good healthy food, and you’ll be thrilled by their joyful behavior and vibrant colorful displays. Birds are migrating most of the time, so look for different ones that are merely passing through.
Our back yard has several feeders thoughtfully distributed around the yard. Our largest feeder dangles out back from a black pine tree, and it is the farthest from the house. It will serve the starlings, blackbirds, and grackles. These birds are scrappy and arrive in flocks, engulfing the seeds in minutes. We use the mixed seed variety for them, containing flecks of corn along with actual seed. The corn mix slows down the ingesting stage, prolonging the actual feeding time. Occasionally we have a visit from the local red-tailed hawk, as his meals are fresh starlings and blackbirds. I wonder if that old nursery rhyme about the four and twenty blackbirds was written because of their massive presence:
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the king?
A bit closer to the house are feeders for smaller birds, like sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals and such. Here we serve a mixture of sunflower seeds, millet, milo, safflower and wheat. Having these feeders closer to the house allows for greater ease of viewing. Some are suspended on the edge of the eaves or from shepherd’s crooks a few feet from the house. We always have a thistle feeder for the finches. This type of feeder has two socks that hang below the seed container. The finches adorn the butterfly bush next to the feeder like ornaments on a tree while waiting their turn at this feeder.
Three suet feeders dangle from tree limbs or garden poles, all filled with homemade suet treats. Most birds seek it out, but our aim is mostly to feed the woodpeckers. The downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and yellow-bellied sapsucker love the suet blocks. To prevent pesky birds from hogging the suet blocks, cover top of block with duct tape or foil, leaving bottom clear. Hang from the top side so birds will have to hang upside down to feed, making it harder to access and the suet lasts longer.
Here’s a suet recipe you might like to try.
1-Cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 Cup sugar
2 Cups quick cooking oats
2 Cups cornmeal
Melt lard and peanut butter. Add sugar to melted mix. Combine remaining ingredients. Form blocks and freeze.
You may purchase the suet blocks at your local hardware store or variety store. Reuse the wire blocks when emptied and fill with your homemade mix. The birds will love you for it! (jew)