Thursday, January 29, 2015

February for the Birds

Brown Thrasher at backyard feeder.

Did you know?  The month of February is specially designated for observing, among other topics:

·         Bird Feeding Month
·         Cat Health Month
·         Responsible Pet Owners Month

And these three - of the many special occasions and causes for the month, go quite well together.  

According to a report from U. S. Fish and Wildlife,  over 65 million American have tried feeding birds.  The report gives some basic tips for feeding:

Considerations for feeder location - convenience for watching and filling; where discarded seeds and hulls will not be a problem; avoiding squirrels by placement 10 -15 feet from tree limbs or using baffles; distance from shrubs that provide cover for predators, but also safety from hawks, etc. for birds seeking cover  -  15’ is recommended; distance from window glass – either within 3 feet of a window or  well away from window, especially large plate glass, to reduce bird strikes on windows by bird flying away from feeders.

Choosing a feeder – durability, ease of cleaning, will it keep feed dry, which species will use the feeder.

The most effective way to attract the largest variety of birds to your yard is to put out separate feeders for each food: 
  • starling-resistant suet feeder
  • a house feeder for sunflower
  • a bluebird feeder
  • a wire mesh cage feeder for peanuts
  • a nectar feeder
  • a tube feeder for thistle
  • a stationary or tray fruit feeder
  • a house or platform feeder for millet
Tips for choosing feed:
  • Be selective in your choice of seeds.  If you use more than one type of seed, put them in separate feeders. This will reduce wasted seeds, as birds will toss unwanted seeds out of a feeder to get to their favorites.
  • Birds that visit your feeder have very specific preferences, most prefer sunflower. Some prefer millet. A few prefer peanuts. None seem to prefer the other grains used in the mixes: corn, milo, red millet, oats, wheat and canary seed.
  • If you want to feed only cardinals, doves and white-throated sparrows, switch from black oil sunflower to safflower. If you want only finches and an occasional dove and white-throated sparrow, try niger thistle. If you want only jays, titmice and white-throated sparrows, try peanuts.
  • You can virtually eliminate unwanted birds at your feeders through your choice of seed.

Here is a tip for homemade bird treats from Birdwatcher’s Digest:   
You can come up with your own recipes for winter bird treats. Some suggestions are - smear peanut butter on a tree trunk, and poke some peanut bits into it. Melt suet in your microwave, and pour it into an ice-cube tray to harden. Before it solidifies, add peanut bits, raisins, apple bits, or other bird foods. Put the tray in your freezer to harden. Once it does, you've got cubed bird treats—easy to make and easy to use!

And don’t forget to add a birdbath!

Finally, a word about Cat Health Month and Responsible Pet Owners Month.  Cats kill millions of songbirds each year.  The American Humane Society Keeping says that cats indoors serves two purposes, providing safety from cats for birds attracted to backyards and keeping cats healthy and safe from exposure to disease, parasites and injury they face outdoors.

If you love to  bird watch but don't have a suitable place for feeding at home, come on out to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge to watch the birds!

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