Enjoy, protect the birds in the backyard

Published 2:18 pm Thursday, February 29, 2024

By Biff and Susan Andrews

Contributing writers

As the bleakness of mid-winter is upon us, the time to enjoy the color that birds bring to your yard has arrived. 

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All you have to do is look out the window and keep a few feeders clean and full. Before you know it, you will be hooked on bird watching. If you do a few simple things, you will make some birds happy, healthy and safe, while elevating your own happiness and health.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that there are roughly 45 million bird enthusiasts nationwide. That works out to be about one third of the population falling into the category we lovingly call “Bird Nerds.” 

The birds need all the help they can get from their human friends. Goodness knows humans have done a fair share of damage to our feathered friends. Their numbers are decreasing at a mind numbing rate. 

Cornell University estimates roughly 3 billion have disappeared since 1970 due to habitat loss, cat attacks, glass collisions and insect loss due to harmful pesticides. We urge you to visit their website birds.cornell.edu to learn how you can mitigate this terrible loss.

We’re lazy bird watchers compared to real birders who get up before the sun to go out to watch birds in the wild. Most of the time the birds are gone before we can adjust the binoculars and get them in our sights. 

Of the numerous birds we do see, most of them come to us. The good news is that your backyard is their natural habitat, too. With a bird identification book and not too much effort, you will be seeing all kinds of birds from the cozy comfort of your kitchen window or any window that suits you.

During these cold temperatures, birds love to visit backyard feeders. Feeders aren’t the only attraction. Water also is attractive to birds. Especially in winter, it is important to put out fresh water and watch that it is replenished if it freezes. 

If you want to see specific kinds of birds, learn what foods they like. In general, we have the best luck with black oil sunflower seeds. They seem to be popular with many local birds. There are lots of mixes out there of varying price points, but beware of the ones that have a high percentage of millet. The millet always seems to be the last to go — our squirrels even turn their noses up at it. 

Suet cakes are well loved in winter for their high fat content. Peanuts are a big hit, especially with the blue jays and red bellied woodpeckers. Even the little birds like tufted titmice, Carolina chick-a-dee and cardinals love the tidbits that are left after the big guys are done. 

Bluebirds love freeze dried mealworms. Mealworms are expensive, but if you love bluebirds it is worth it. 

Keep your feeders clean and full and everyone will be happy, especially you.


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