Enjoy perks of feeding birds during the winter

Winter can be a great time to perfect your birding skills without leaving the comfort of home. A couple of feeders and the right type of food, from seeds to nuts, fruit and suet, are all you need to attract birds to your yard.

It’s never easy being a bird, no matter what Big Bird might say.

You work every daylight hour trying to find something to eat while avoiding the predators also looking for something to eat.

Winter is the harshest time, and the birds who don’t migrate find themselves facing a severely reduced food supply and harsh living conditions.

Down makes great insulation from the cold, but when you weigh a few grams, there isn’t much there to protect you from snow, ice, long nights, below-zero temperatures and generally unpleasant conditions.

Still, on most days you’ll see a variety of birds moving around the neighborhood, seeking dormant insects, seeds, berries and whatever else can be had.

Which, of course, is where you come in.

Unlike most winter feeding of wildlife, which can do more harm than good, winter bird feeding is a good thing in helping wild birds survive.

Plus, it’s easy and fun, especially if you keep track of the different species of birds that might be using your feeders.

Dexter and Brenda Coen of Nucla make a daily (or more often) count of the birds on the many feeders hanging like Japanese lanterns around their yard.

They regularly post their observations on the Western Slope Birding Network electronic mail list and recently reported seeing 23 species of bird on one day around their feeders.

Last year, their yard list topped out at 115 species.

Anyone can feed wild birds, and here are few tips to remember:

■ Stay committed — Once you start feeding birds, it’s important you keep with it through the winter.

The birds visiting your yard will start to rely on your feeding stations, especially during winter storms, cold snaps and other critical times. If you don’t feed the birds, the birds may not have time to find other sources to last them through the emergency.

■ Vary the feeding stations — Some birds prefer seeds, some prefer suet, some will be attracted by peanuts or apples or peanut butter.

Setting up a complex feeding station should increase the variety of birds you see.

■ Seed money — If you have only enough money for one type of seed, most winter birds will eat sunflower seeds. They especially like the little, black, oily type of sunflower seed and the gray-striped ones.

Smaller birds — finches, sparrows, chickadees and siskins — will come to white and red proso millet, canary seed and thistle or niger seeds.

Just be sure the seed inside the feeder stays dry, and there are enough openings the birds can reach the feed.

It’s wise to the put the feeders in the open, someplace a cat won’t be able to sneak up on the birds.

Also, some birding websites say placing the feeder close to a window is good because the birds won’t have time to gather enough speed to crash into the window.

On warmer days, put out some water, which also is a rarity in the cold months.

More information is available at http://www.wildbirdsunlimited.com and http://www.audubon.org.


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