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(TNS)—After redoing our 10-year-old yard with new plants and patio, we added the icing on the cake: bird feeders for our feathered friends.

After planting eastern red cedars, hollies and other bird-attracting plants in the natural area outback, we visited several birding stores to select a feeding system.

In the past, we built our own systems. Our favorite was a 10-foot-long 4-by-4 cemented in the ground, and outfitted with squirrel- and raccoon-deterrent baffle and four 12-inch, vinyl-coated hooks. Caged feeders fend off squirrels and nuisance birds.

This time, we purchased an advanced feeder pole system and feeders from Wild Birds Unlimited in Virginia Beach, Va., part of a national franchise of stores.

Feeder Poles 101
I have had feeder poles before and disliked them because they twisted, turned and leaned in soft wet soil. It’s mainly why we did the 4-by-4 post and cement—nothing short of an earthquake was going to move that contraption.

The advanced pole system, however, looks sturdy, thanks to a stabilizer that slips onto the pole and into the ground. Installation is simple and straightforward: twist the 48-inch base pole 16 inches into the ground and then slide the stabilizer onto the 48-inch section. Several months later, the pole still stands straight, despite gusty winds and drenching rains.

Snap-on, snap-off extensions give you a pole as tall or as short as you want. A double-crook arm provides hangers for two feeders; add a second arm for four feeders. Accessories such as a decorative finial, side-dish feeder, decorative branch perch and suet cage with bracket attach easily. Because the pole is located in the middle of the lawn, close to a window where I can watch birds as they feed, I placed a Yard Tuff mulch tree ring on the ground around the pole; the ring makes it easy for the mower and trimmer to go around the feeder system.

Nuisance-Proof Feeders
I am a long-time, diehard fan of caged bird feeders because they, along with a baffle, keep out squirrels, raccoons and unwanted birds like grackles and common blackbirds. Successful caged feeders have a wide, wide space between the feeding tube and the outside cage so paws and beaks can’t reach through and sneak a snack.

Easy-clean feeders are another good way to go. Some brands like Duncraft feature a pull-and-slide feature that frees all the feeding ports so you can scrub and rinse them, then reassemble the feeder without much effort. Other brands have bottoms that release and feeding ports that snap out for easy access, too. These feeders will cost you more than one-piece units but the price is worth it.

Seeds Birds Like
February is National Bird-Feeding Month, a time to put out seed and suet that will bring birds to your backyard feeders, where you can watch them intently.

Here’s what birds like best, according to National Bird-Feeding Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Cole’s Wild Bird Feed:

  • Blackbirds – Suet, sunflower
  • Bluebirds – Mealworms, suet, sunflower meats
  • Cardinals – Safflower, suet, sunflower
  • Chickadees – Safflower, suet, sunflower
  • Doves – Suet, white millet
  • Finches – Suet, thistle
  • Grosbeaks – Suet, sunflower
  • Indigo Bunting – Suet, white millet
  • Jays – Corn, suet, sunflower
  • Juncos – Suet, white millet
  • Nuthatches – Suet, sunflower
  • Robins – Suet, sunflower meats
  • Sparrows – Suet, sunflower, white millet
  • Titmice – Safflower, suet, sunflower
  • Towhees – Suet, white millet
  • Warblers – Suet, sunflower meats
  • Woodpeckers – Suet, sunflower meats

©2016 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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