It’s for the Birds

While putting away a glass bird bath for the winter a few weeks ago, I wondered how all the beautiful cardinals and finches it attracted would find a food and water source during the winter. I decided to do some research by visiting a store that specialized in bird feeders.

It was surprising to learn how many bird feeder styles are available. There are feeders that cater to the birds that have already visited the yard and patio, such as cardinals, finches and chickadees. The sighting of a red cardinal perched on a fence covered with snow, is one worthy of a photograph. With advice from the staff of the specialty store, I learned how to attract and feed them.

Things to remember:

  • Place the feeder where it is visible. Birds generally find their food by sight.
  • Sprinkle some seed on the ground to encourage the birds to the new feeding area.
  • Use a seed type or seed blend, based on the birds in the area.
  • Keep the feeder clean and the seed fresh.
  • Birds are attracted by activity; if a flock of sparrows deem the feeder a good source of food, other species will check out what all the fuss is about and the word will spread quickly.
  • An ample supply of a high-calorie food, such as suet, seed cylinders and peanuts is critical. Peanuts are a high-fat food that a variety of birds will eat for an energy- filled treat. To stay warm, birds will expend energy quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on a cold night.
  • Birds store the needed calories as fat, but they can only store enough for 16 to 24 hours. This is why you will see birds in a panic at the feeder right before it gets dark and at first light.
  • A feeder, seed and water are the only requirements to get started with feeding. The local bird specialty store provides a variety of feeders. I found the staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful with selecting the appropriate feeder. They also gave me good advice about keeping uninvited squirrels and neighborhood cats away from the feeder. . . now, we’ll see if it works.
  • If you don’t live near a natural water source such as lake, pond or stream, you should consider providing a water source for the birds. Surprisingly, there are heated bird baths available, but also you can put out a plastic container filled with water to satisfy their needs.

Fortunately, for the birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 41 million Americans spend $2 billion annually on bird feed and the numbers are increasing yearly

Audubon Society

Wild Birds Unlimited

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