Blue Jays are listed both as hated and loved.  Even the haters agree they are beautiful as well as aggressive. They tend to live in groups and store their food.  Acorns are a favorite. There are more Blues in Eastern United States than here in a western area. They are listed as bullies in some books. Their large size and loud voice maintains their “boss of the feeders”. Jays eat most anything so you need not plant specially for them.  They will eat acorns, bread, corn (whole or cracked), crackers, cooked eggs, fruit, worms, nuts, peanut utter, suet, or sunflower seeds. Jays hide acorns and sunflower seeds under leaves which accounts for some of the new plants you have in your yard. I also found Hummers listed as bullies. Our neighbor had a nest hanging over our fence and when the babies were learning to fly and sat on the fence the parents would attack me if I happened to go by.

          Probably the best loved bird is the Cardinal. You can see it on Christmas and birthday cards, on posters, and advertisements. Spring is livened by watching the bright red males carry food to the female and feed her. Black oil Sunflower seeds seem to be the favorite.  His song is easily recognized and he sings much of the time when courting. Apples, bread, peanuts, Sunflower seeds, and Safflower seeds make up their menu. Many other birds and squirrels do not eat Safflower so that mainly leaves the feeder free for the Cardinals. . Notice that thick, stubby beak that can open nuts and seeds. Big thick shrubs are the plants you need for them to hide the nest.  There is a pair in my Henry Lauders Walking Stick with its thick, crooked stems.  They don’t enter directly but rather from the opposite side from the nest

          For several years Orioles built their long nest on the end of the big Cottonwood in the back yard. Woven by an expert, the nest swings wildly in the wind. The babies had to climb up to even see out as they lived in the bottom of the small bag. Caterpillars are one of their favorite foods. They also love fruit and especially Oranges so nail half an orange on a platform to attract them. A little dish of Grape jelly will help keep them in your yard.

          A little bird I do not see every winter is the Nuthatch who is able to walk down a tree trunk head first. They hammer their seeds into a space in the trunk of trees. In a good year they my stay all year only migrating when food gets sparse.

          Water is as important as food in your yard, even in winter.  Birds are unable to sip water.  They require shallow water to gather some in their bills then tip their heads back and drink it down except for the Dove family that can drink like we do. So your baths must shallow to they can safely fill their bill, and then tip their head. The bath also needs a rough surface. If the bird bath is deeper than 2 inches, put a brick or rock to provide traction. They also need trees or shrubs nearby to escape cats or hawks. This winter BJ made a perfect spot as he accidentally stepped on the mesh wire over for the Water Lily Pond, sinking an area below water. This is where most of my birds drink as they can stand on the wire.

          Birds love vines. Many species  use them for food (seeds), safe shelter, and nesting space.  Nesters are Wrens, Robins, Catbirds, Mocking Birds, Cardinals, and House Finches. Other birds may eat the fruit or seeds from Vines, so you can plant your yard according to the birds you want to attract. The purple flowered Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus) has dense high climbing, sturdy stems. Last summer I put them on the 6 foot high chain link fence. Anyone going through the gate had to duck the long, bright pods in the fall. You do not need to leave out your flower beds in order to have a Bird Garden.

          Woodpeckers move in as soon as your trees get tall enough for them to drill homes inside. For me the Red Bellied was the first to move in.  Actually it is their head that is red rather than their belly. In the winter they love to have suet. Try the new ones that do not melt and drip in the summer. Today there is a pecker drumming on the roof drain pipe.  It is a good way to get attention.  The plants whose seeds or fruit they like are Hollies, Mulberries, Black or Red Raspberries, and some Viburnums.  Both the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers will be in your yard if you hang suet cakes. They are not ground feeders but prefer the hanging ones and will even cling to the underside of a suet cake while eating.

          The tiny Wren will nest in almost any tiny, sheltered space. One friend had a nest in her clothes pin bag hanging on a post at the end of the clothesline. Their eggs hatch in two weeks and in another two weeks the youngsters are sitting on the top of your fence.  They do not eat at feeders a great deal but prefer insects, bread, suet, apples, peanut butter, or Millet at the feeders. They are fierce in defending their babies. Our neighbor had a nest just above our fence and when they were learning to fly, the parents would buzz my head if I went near.

          Milo is the least liked grain for bird mixes and is usually found in the cheaper ones. Blackbirds and Doves will eat it and so will Sparrows. Other birds on my favorite list are Mockingbirds, Sparrows and Phoebes.

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