February is National Wild Bird Feeding Month, the seventh observance since the event was established by the National Bird-Feeding Society.
The reason, of course, is that February is one of the most difficult times in much of the U.S. and Canada for birds to survive in the wild. For example, consider that: • A typical backyard bird doesn’t weigh as much as two nickels • They spend most of their waking hours searching for food — without the help of “hands” and “fingers” • They may consume 20% of their body weight overnight just keeping warm enough to survive • Like the mailman, they’re outside in sleet, snow, wind and cold The Society recommends: • Keep feeders full, so the birds have a dependable supply of food during cold weather • Keep feeders free of snow and ice • Offer suet, which is pure fat, a great source of energy for those backyard birds whose summer diet was mostly insects — woodpeckers, as well as chickadees and nuthatches • Stamp down the snow underneath the feeders to help the ground feeding birds, such as juncos, cardinals, blue jays and doves
People shouldn’t be discouraged if they put up a new feeder and the birds don’t flock to it immediately. Because birds find food by sight, it can take a while for them to locate a fresh source. Try putting a piece of aluminum foil on the ground near the feeder, where sunlight can be reflected and catch their eye.
Providing wild birds with food, water and shelter supplements their natural diet and helps them survive. A Wisconsin study showed that chickadees with access to feeders made it through a severe winter better than those without.
There are benefits for adults as well. Watching wild birds serves to relieve stress and can start the day on a positive note. Bringing birds into the backyard, particularly during gloomy northern winters, adds a welcome flash of color, dash of motion and splash of sound.
Wild bird feeding is the principal connection many people have with wildlife, considering the continued trend toward moving into urban areas.
In celebration of its tenth anniversary, the National Bird-Feeding Society is offering a free special report about four of the most popular bird feeders: tubular, hopper, hummingbird and suet. To receive this free bonus, just send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to NBS, Post Office Box 23R, Northbrook, IL 60065.
And to become wiser in the ways of being better friends with your backyard birds, support the not-for-profit National Bird-Feeding Society. For $15 annual support, you will receive a bi-monthly newsletter, The Bird’s-Eye reView, a copy of the informative Basics of Backyard Bird Feeding, a membership certificate and more.