Sunday, February 15, 2009

Have You Fed The Birds Today?

Mom just came home from shopping. I saw the bag from the pet store and thought it was a treat for me. No such luck. All she bought was a bunch of bird seed! BIRD SEED!? I don't eat bird seed. I was a little upset - alright I was a lot upset. But then Mom reminded me how much I enjoy chasing birds. And she told me that in the winter, birds have a hard time finding food. She told me that it's so hard for them that people all over are joining together to remind others that they need to feed the birds. After listening to her, I felt bad that I had been mad. I like the birds. I can chase them. And when I'm tired and I'm just sitting in the sun, I can listen to them sing. It helps me sleep. I would not like a world without birds. So I've decided to do my part by sharing some information Mom got from the Wild Bird Center.

Consider that: - A typical backyard bird doesn't weigh as much as two nickels. - Birds spend most of their waking hours searching for food -- without the help of "hands" and "fingers". - They may consume 15% of their body weight overnight just keeping warm enough to survive. - Like mail carriers, they're outside in sleet, snow, wind and cold.

One-third of the adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards. Providing food, water and shelter helps birds survive, benefits the environment and supplements wild birds' natural diet of weed seeds and harmful insects.

Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational and inexpensive pastime that can be enjoyed by children and adults. It provides a needed break from today's frantic lifestyles that helps keep families together. Young children are drawn naturally to the activities involved in feeding wild birds. Chickadees, for example, fly back and forth between a feeder and a nearby tree. On each trip, they take a single seed and fly to a perch. While holding the seed with their feet, they peck it open and eat the kernel. This can capture a youngster's imagination.

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. For example, the Northern cardinal is a common visitor to many feeding stations. A beautiful bird, the bright red male and his more camouflaged mate often will be the first at the feeder in the morning and last to leave at night. Mated for life, they can be observed sharing morsels of sunflower and safflower seeds during the nesting season.

Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an easy hobby to start, and it need not overtax the family budget. It can be as simple as mounting a single feeder outside a window and filling it with good-quality birdseed or oil sunflower seeds. This feeder can be a hopper, platform or tubular variety or one that sticks to the window.

Parents can challenge an inquisitive child's mind as they explore together these factors to encourage visits by their favorite birds. It also makes excellent material for school projects and reports. In fact, bird feeding is an excellent teaching tool. Children can assume daily responsibility for cleaning and filling the feeders. Different species of birds can be identified with a field guide. And the activity can be expanded form that point, depending on the interest of the family.

For example, suet products often are put out in wire baskets to attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and others. Another variation of feeding is to provide sugar water in special red-colored feeders to attract hummingbirds in the summer. These little wonders of nature will hover right in front of you to drink, and present an entire bird study all by themselves.

If you offer water, particularly if it's dripping or running, you may attract birds that do not visit your feeders. Many interesting and eye-catching species are not seedeaters, preferring insects or berries instead. Adding a birdbath warmer to keep water from freezing in northern states during winter creates an oasis for bird watching. To round out the family's backyard birding program, birdhouses can be purchased to provide shelter in winter and breeding sanctuaries during spring for cavity-nesting birds.

Feeding backyard songbirds is an extremely popular wildlife-related recreational activity around the home. A stress-free and inexpensive activity, backyard birding brings a welcome flash of color and dash of motion and splash of sound into everyone's daily life.

Mom and I will fill our bird feeders tomorrow. She has lots of them all over our yard. We have a big yard so she needs them all. I hope you will feed them too.
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