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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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Celebrate National Wild Bird Feeding Month (02/09/2006)
Why devote a month each year to the hobby of feeding the birds?

Because backyard birdfeeding is enjoyed by over 52 million North Americans, and is the hobby second only in popularity to gardening in the United States. One in three families in the United States (and even more in Minnesota!) feed the birds. And, due to the relaxing aspect of this hobby in our fast-paced environment, feeding wild birds is often considered "nature's therapy."

February was proclaimed National Wild Bird Feeding Month by the United States Congress in 1994 to encourage people to make winter a little easier for wild birds by providing food, water and shelter where they live. Two ways people can celebrate National Wild Bird Feeding Month are by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 17 to 20, and by counting birds as part of Project Feeder Watch. Both the weekend-long GBBC and the winter-long Feeder Watch are coordinated by Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology (www.birds.cornell.edu) and sponsored by Wild Birds Unlimited. Volunteer counters record the highest number of each kind of wild bird they see at their feeders or in their backyards, and report them as part of nation-wide surveys that help bird conservation by tracking broadscale movements and populations of winter birds. For more information about participating in these counts, people can contact Wild Birds Unlimited (507/292-9266), or Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (www.birdsource.org/gbbc).

Many people enjoy feeding wild birds in winter, when birds need more calories to keep their small bodies warm. But spring is also an important season to feed the birds, as it can be a difficult and stressful time. Most natural food sources from last year have been depleted during the winter, and fresh seeds and berries don't become available until much later in the summer.

You can also plan now, to plant trees and shrubs in the spring that will attract birds year-round. Bringing birds to your yard in the spring by providing nesting boxes, in addition to food, also allows for viewing birds' interesting and educational activities of choosing a nest site, making the nest, laying eggs, and feeding their hatchlings. Summer provides even more activity for your enjoyment as birds continue to feed their broods, and as fledglings head out into the world. And it's always fun to watch wild birds as they clamor in birdbaths to get clean or to take a drink!

Location, Location, Location.

The best way to increase the variety of birds that visit your backyard is to create a safe feeding environment that imitates the birds' natural feeding habitat, and how the birds find food. For example, sparrows, juncos and mourning doves are ground-feeding birds whose natural habitats are meadows and fields where seeds from many plants fall to the ground and become a source of food. Seeds like millet or sunflower placed on ground-feeding trays simulate these birds' natural habitat. Chickadees, house finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers are tree dwelling birds with strong feet for clinging, so they can forage for food in trees (or at feeders) above the ground. Seed tubes, hopper feeders and suet feeders hung from trees or mounted on poles are ideal for simulating an elevated feeding habitat and attracting these birds. Birds that will feed either on the ground or in trees usually live in forest edge habitats where both trees and low shrubs exist. Cardinals, blue jays and grosbeaks are just a few of the birds that you can attract to ground, platform or elevated feeders. And keeping cats indoors will make your yard safer and more attractive to wild birds.

Selecting the Right Food - A Matter of Taste.

Once you have placed your birdfeeders at the best location to attract the birds you want to visit, you need to fill them with food that matches the taste preferences of these birds. Understanding the feeding preferences of birds here in southeastern Minnesota, so birdseed includes just the seeds that our local birds prefer to eat, ensures virtually no wasted seed. For instance, cardinals like sunflower and safflower; blue jays, woodpeckers and nuthatches love peanuts; and ground-feeding juncos and tree sparrows like white proso millet. Some discount bird seed blends have a large quantity of cereal grain fillers birds don't like, and typically end up uneaten in a pile under the feeder.  


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