Monday, February 23, 2015

Feeding our Feathered Friends

I write a kid's column for Two-Lane' Livin' Magazine.
For the January issue, I wrote about feeding our feathered friends.
With the weather and cold the way it is, I thought this would be a good time to post it.

     Why did the little bird get in trouble at school?  He got caught peeping on a test.
     Have you ever heard of the expression, “Eating like a bird?”
     How exactly does a bird eat?
     First, birds do not have teeth. I bet you already knew that. They have a high metabolism and low levels of body fat, so they do not have much stored energy and cannot go more than a couple of days without food. They eat until bedtime and start feasting as soon as they wake up, eating hundreds of tiny seeds throughout the day. We have bird feeders, and I notice that certain times of the day we are more likely to see birds eating than at other times.
     What’s for supper?
     The shape of their bill gives you a clue as to what they eat. Birds that eat seeds tend to have a thick cone-shaped bill that is good for cracking seeds. Cardinals, finches and sparrows are birds that eat seeds all year long. The seed that attracts the widest variety of birds is sunflower.  The black oil sunflower seeds have thin shells and are easy to crack open. They have high fat content and are very good for birds. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and black-capped chickadees love suet. And from experience, I know blue jays and titmice love peanuts.  Seed-eating birds need grit to help digest their food. Eggshells are an excellent source of grit and calcium. Crush cleaned eggshells from hard boiled eggs. If eggs are not boiled, bake the washed shells in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes until dry, but not brown. Crush into small pieces and place outside.
     Keep an eagle eye on your feeders!
     See if you can identify the types of birds that come to eat. Birds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. A bird guide can help you identify them.
     Make it!
     If you do not have a bird feeder, building one would be a good project when the wind is howling and it is too cold for playing outside in the snow. To make an easy feeder, with adult supervision, cut holes (2-4 inches wide) out of the sides of a clean, empty milk jug. Make a small hole beneath each opening to insert dowel rods for perches. Punch drain holes in the bottom and fill the jug with seeds and hang in a nearby tree.
     Watch out for backyard bandits!
     Cats love to ambush birds while they feed.  And, although peanuts are very popular with blue jays and titmice, other animals also like them. Keep your feeders near the shelter of bushes and trees, but not so close that their enemies can jump out and ambush them.  Remember to keep your feeders clean and also provide water for birds in the winter.
     Winter can be a hard time for birds.  Days are short and nights are cold and long. Providing them with food is not only a fun activity, but helps provide birds the energy to keep warm.


We had a surprise this morning. We have seen or heard of squirrels and deer eating at or around bird feeders . . . But, a rabbit?

 I love our woodpeckers

 Here is my milk jug feeder
most all the birds visit it

I have seen juncos, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, finches, woodpeckers, doves, blackbirds, towhees, starlings, etc. at my feeders.

Are you feeding the birds? What birds are your favorite to watch?