Please do not take down your hummingbird feeder for the winter! Anna's Hummingbirds stay in Sonoma County year 'round and will be grateful for nectar on cold, rainy days. The feeder mildews quickly in the winter, so keep it clean and well-stocked with fresh sugar water. To make the nectar, bring to a boil, then let cool, a mixture of 4 parts of water to one part of white cane sugar. Store balance in refrigerator. No coloring, no honey, please.
Diseases in your bird feeder?? An awful thought, but it's an issue that we who feed birds need to know about. My information comes from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. There are 4 diseases that commonly infect birds that feed from feeders; the names are not important, but the causes are and can be avoided, primarily by keeping feeders clean and scrubbed with a 10% bleach-in-water solution. Tray feeders, because they collect fecal matter, can be the dirtiest.
Moldy, damp seeds encourage fungus, the spores of which are inhaled by the birds, causing disease. If your feeder is not waterproof, clean out the wet residue and fill the feeder with fresh seed between rains. Rodents and their droppings can carry and spread diseases. Make certain your feeder has no sharp points or edges where a bird could get scratched or cut. This would allow viruses or bacteria to enter the birds' system.
An Evergreen Cherry?: Yes, a California native shrub (Prunus ilicifolia) which produces fruits loved by birds. This evergreen, holly-like cherry tree has leathery leaves, and, in spring shows off its thick white flowers. Ornamental cherries, sweet and tasty, but too thin-pulped for human consumption, follow. Let the birds have their dessert treat instead. The holly-leaf cherry can be grown in a big tub, clumped as a hedge, left to mature as a thick shrub, or pruned to a single trunk to become a tree reaching up to 50'. No special care needed, just full sun, occasional summer watering, and perhaps a gopher basket, if you have these critters. That's it!
Recipe for a birdie suet cake from "The Bird Rescue Flyer". We published it last year, but you may have missed or forgotten it. Melt together: 2 cups lard, and 1 cup crunchy peanut butter over very low heat. Stir in: 2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal, 2 cups yellow cornmeal, 1 cup white flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 to 2 cups assorted finely-chopped nuts, cranberries, currants, and raisins. You may have to adjust the amount of lard. The consistency should be like cookie dough. Line a baking pan with wax paper, pour in mixture and refrigerate. Cut into squares to put in your suet feeder or crumble into a hanging bowl-type feeder. Put out small amounts at a time so it won't spoil (although it probably won't be around long enough for that to happen!) The mixture will keep in your freezer or refrigerator indefinitely.