Summer feeding tips for the birds

Sharna Johnson

Sharna Johnson

By Sharna Johnson

Local columnist

If there were a season they could call theirs, it would be this one.

No doubt, the birds are having all the fun this time of year, their antics and activities easy to spot almost anywhere one looks.

Though easy to ignore if tuned out, they are everywhere — from parks to parking lots, they are out hunting for scraps of discarded food, nest materials and the occasional puddles of water for quick baths.

At their liveliest, if they haven’t already, they are also courting and pairing off with some well into nesting and caring for hatchlings and all the while, they still manage to play and find time to sing.

Between migration periods, our feathered friends are enjoying some R&R before it’s time to watch those youngin’s fall from the nest and push on to warmer regions.

As shy as they are, they don’t mind spending their time in the company of humans — from a safe distance, of course — where there’s better availability of food and shelter, which translates to entertainment for people.

And because of that, right about the time the outdoor furniture and lawn care supplies find their way to the shelves, an array of bird feeders and seed appear in stores.

The attraction of having birds visit backyards is one that many people share.

In 2013, an estimated 40.5 million American households — almost 35 percent — purchased wild bird feed, spending $4.4 billion on feed and feeders, according to data from the Wild Bird Feeding Industry.

Whether hanging feeders from a tree, pole or positioning them in front of a window, drawing birds in close enough to enjoy them is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to observe nature.

The majority of people keep it simple, WBFI data shows, typically making purchases for backyard birds impulsively and opting for the less expensive feed and feeders.

Fancy feeders and fine feeds are always available, and like anything, there are plenty of ways to invest money in the hobby, but when it comes to backyard birding, simple and inexpensive works.
Feeders can be easily constructed using recycled materials such as repurposed bottles and jugs or simple carpentry — all a feeder has to do is hold feed in an accessible way – and simple seed mixes can be purchased for as little as a couple dollars. It’s so simple, in fact; making a feeder is an activity even the kids can take part in.

A couple of handy tips for backyard bird feeding from birdsforever.com and Audubon.org:
• Elevate feeders off the ground so birds are safely out of range of cats and other predators.
• Birdseed that falls to the ground can sprout and grow, producing anything from sunflowers to grass and milo. If seed growth is unwanted, sterilize seeds by roasting them on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes before filling feeders.
• While inexpensive seed mixes will attract plenty of birds, they often contain grain and other seeds that birds will toss out of the feeder as they hunt for their favorites, leading to a mess and wasted seeds around feeders. Place a screen or tray under feeders to catch tossed seeds for less picky birds.
• Drip-style hummingbird feeders — filled with a simple, low cost, homemade sugar-water —- must initially be filled completely to work correctly or they will leak.
• Approximately 1 billion birds die each year by flying into windows. When hanging feeders near windows, be sure there is a clear visual barrier to help birds navigate safely.

Remember, backyard feeding can be a fun and creative family project, especially when it’s for the birds.

 

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:
insearchofponies
@gmail.com.