Feeding Wild Birds 

Looking out my window on a bright sunny day, I see a flock of small, winged
creatures gracing my lawn. Or should I say, foraging for miniscule tidbits
blown in by the wind? The chatter, accompanying a delectable find, brings
more searchers landing on the green carpet known as my front yard. The
colorful spots of blue on white, white on black, or brown and orange vie for
the best seed. Daily, I see these winged beauties return for yet another
chance of finding a delicious morsel. 

I have a habit of throwing all our edible leftovers outside, off the edge of my
front porch, for my barnyard chickens to scratch and pick at. It brings me
great delight to watch as the young chicks follow their mama's example.
Once the chickens have satisfied their appetite and gone wandering off to
look for bugs and other such edibles, the birds arrive. Usually one by one,
occasionally a pair and once in a great while a small flock will arrive. In
years past pigeons would make semi-annual visits to my small farm, tho lately
they seemed to have permanently moved in. The mottled grays are a stark
contrast to the occasional light brown and white pigeon of the amiable flock.
The sound of their mellow cooing is in sharp contrast to the shriek of a
disgruntled bluejay fighting for the last kernel of food. 

Spring, summer and fall, I seldom worry about my visitors procuring enough
to eat. The yard is a veritable smorgasbord for their palates. Once the cooler
weather arrives, the foraging becomes more intense. The earlier prevalence
of tasty insects and seed diminishes with each passing day. The amount of
leftovers from our meals stays constant but is not the most optimum meal for
these gentle creatures. So, off to the store I go, purchasing bags of seed for
my wild friends. The sheer quantity of choices, increasing each year it seems,
of varying types of seed makes the decision more of a challenge. Oiled
sunflower seed, mixed wild bird variety, suet, corn, and the list goes on. 

Having been a wildlife rehabilitator for over twenty years "officially" I
recognize the potential problem of allowing the wild birds, who gather here
to eat, to become too accustomed to receiving free handouts. When this
happens, they sometimes become overly dependent upon human donations
and the natural order of things becomes chaotic. I make sure I don't put
offerings out on a regular basis so as not to encourage the wild birds to
become accustomed to a pattern of feeding. I alternate the types of food for
variety. My kids also participate in the feedings by making pine cone feeders
using peanut butter and seed. The process is easy and fun for the whole
family. The "recipe" goes like this: Collect several large pine cones (another
great family expedition is gathering the pine cones in the fall to save for
those uneventful winter day projects), a jar of peanut butter, bird seed and
string. Using a spoon, fill the sections of each pine cone, then roll the pine
cone on a piece of waxed paper on which the seeds have been spread. Tie a
piece of string at the top of the pine cone to hang it outside on a tree branch
or hook. The birds will love these. 

Another favorite family activity is to string popcorn (let it get a bit stale and
it will not break as easily) to hang out for the birds. It is something every age
member of the family can participate in, even the very young ones can pass
the popcorn (at least the pieces that don't end up in their mouths) to the older
ones to string. Using a large sewing needle with regular thread works well to
thread the popcorn together. The only warning is to watch for the thread to
be emptied and remove it immediately so the birds do not get themselves
wound up in it. 

Bird watching, along with bird feeding, is a wonderful family pastime. Buy,
beg or borrow a good bird identification book. Make a list near the best
viewing window and have each member of the family write down the name of
the birds they have seen. If they do not recognize a type, have them look up
the picture in the book to identify it. Keep track of how many of each variety
you see. Even make notes about what food each bird likes best. This could be
used even for a school science project. The opportunities for interesting
projects are endless. Just gear up your imagination to see what you can come
up with. Bird house building, talking to a wildlife rehabilitator about helping
injured and orphan birds, falconry, conservation efforts and so on and so

Copyright by barefoot warrior


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