Feed the birds

Did you know that February is National Bird-Feeding Month? It was started on February 23, 1994 by former U.S. Congressman John Porter. Porter said it best in his address to Congress, when asking for recognition for National Bird-Feeding month: 

Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults. Bird feeding provides a needed break from today's frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds--nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one's day going on a tranquil note.

Blue Jay and two European Starlings

(Blue Jay and two European Starlings)

I know that I always enjoying being able to look out the window to see which feathered friends have come for a visit. Here at Arboretum, we have four bird feeders set up just outside of the Stackhouse Education Center. In the past few weeks, they have been overrun with migratory groups of blackbirds, including starlings, grackles, and even a few red-winged blackbirds. We tend to get annoyed with them for bullying the smaller, sweeter-sounding birds away from the feeders, but they need to eat too! Although they are mostly short-distance migrators, they are likely still famished from their travels.

(American Goldfinches)

All of our feeders and food were generously donated to us by Wild Birds Unlimited. If you're interested in backyard birding, Wild Birds Unlimited is a great resource to help you get started! Our first two feeders are the EcoClean Large Seed Tube Feeder (pictured above, right) and the EcoClean Large Finch Feeder (left). The Seed Feeder contains a signature "No-Mess Blend." It's made up of seeds that have had their shells removed, such as sunflower chips, hulled white millet, and shelled peanuts. There's no need for clean-up of scattered shells afterwards. This is especially useful when blue jays come around; they sure love to toss their food everywhere! The Finch Feeder contains a "Finch Blend," which has Nyjer and fine sunflower chips. The smaller openings in this feeder are better suited for birds with itty-bitty beaks.

This time of year, we've seen blue jays, various finches, tufted titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees, and cardinals at these feeders. Ground-feeding birds like mourning doves and juncos come by to pick up the leftovers that get tossed to the ground by messy eaters.

(Mourning Doves on a bench)

The other two feeders we have are the EcoTough Double Tail Prop Suet Feeder (pictured below, left) and the Seed Cylinder Feeder (right). The Suet Feeder contains "Hot Pepper Suet," made from corn, roasted peanuts, rendered beef suet, oats, red pepper, and soy oil. If you have problems with squirrels taking over your feeders, Wild Bird Unlimited's hot pepper blends are a great deterrent. The birds love them, and the squirrels stay away. The Seed Cylinder has a "Cranberry Cylinder," with pecans, sunflower chips, peanuts, safflower, black oil sunflower, and cranberries. The seed cylinders seem to last the longest of all the feeders, as it takes more time for the birds to peck away at them.

(European Starlings)

At these two feeders we tend to see more woodpeckers (including downy, hairy, and red-bellied), nuthatches (both white-breasted and red-breasted), chickadees, and finches.

(Hairy Woodpecker)

The cold winter months are always a difficult time for birds, especially those that are returning from migration and looking for a meal to refuel. Although some people may be concerned about interfering with the natural feeding habits of wild birds, most bird enthusiasts agree that putting out feeders is more helpful than harmful, especially as we reach the end of winter, when food is scarce. So, even though it's no longer February, it's still a wonderful time to feed the birds.

Tufted Titmouse holding a peanut

(Tufted Titmouse holding a peanut)