It’s for the Birds


Winter-time is bird-feeding time at the Fosters.

Our little flowering Chinese cherry tree is positioned in the middle of the front yard and easily viewed from the living room, master bathroom and our bedroom windows.

Plus, there’s a Washington Hawthorne bush just outside our bathroom window that our feathered friends like to hide in and on when they’re not eating.

Most times we gets lots of little brown wrens and sparrows but the goldfinches and chickadees show up to add a little color along with noisy Blue Jays and chirping Cardinals.

We see our share of woodpeckers, too along with droves of cowbirds, grackles, starlings and mourning doves.

And, just to complete the “circle of life”, a frisky hawk occasionally shows up to grab a snack and his are usually “feathered”.

One day, I was sitting in the living room and I became aware of a din of chirping birds, much louder that the normal bird-feeder chatter.

When I looked out the bathroom window, there was a red-tailed hawk sitting on the bush while the thorny branches below him were teeming with squawking birds not interested in being his next meal.

Hey! Hawks gotta eat, too!

I guess black oil sunflower seeds are among the bird faves, along with suet, peanuts, nyjer and even salt.

Fresh fruit and peanut butter can be favorites of little chirpers and bits of bread are okay. But the more material you have on the ground, the more likely you’ll attract unwanted creatures, like skunks and such. An occasional rabbit will happen by to see what’s on the dinner table, too.

Some of the millets in bird seed mixtures are fillers that most birds don’t crave so they’ll just kick that out while searching for a more tasty fare.

If you find a lot of seed on the ground and not being eaten, you might want to upgrade your offering.

Years ago, I had a bird feeder outside the screened-in porch.

Our Boxer came in and I smelled something similar to beer.

I discovered the dog had been sniffing around the  bottom of the bird feeder and seemed to take a liking to eating a little bit of that fermenting seed mass that the birds had discarded.

This year, we put out some mealworm cakes and the birds went bonkers .  Most times they’d be totally gone within a day.

I bought bags of dried mealworms and mixed in with the seed and all that did was cause a feeding frenzy with most of the seed picked and kicked away in search of the grubs.

The best answer seems to be suet cakes with mealworms in them. At least the little buggers have to work a little harder at getting their treats which keeps bird feeding from becoming a part-time job.

The little songbirds really like the nyjer, or thistle seed but they can get feisty if all 12 of the roosting spots are taken.

I read that a typical chickadee will eat the equivalent of 35% of its’ body weight each. day.

I remember my parents chiding my sisters for picking at their meals and “eating like a bird” but if we all ate like birds, you and I would occupy even more space than we currently do.

A 2 pound cardinal will eat up to a pound of seeds per day!

Most birds only get 25% of their daily requirement from bird feeders so they’re pretty resourceful critters.

But, when the snow’s deep, I’m sure they like the easy accessibility to the seed we put out.

I’ve heard folks say they don’t feed the birds because they get lazy and dependent on us and won’t forage for their own food.

There’s no truth to that.

Even though we refer to them as “bird-brained”, they’re more resourceful and active than many of us are.

I’ve also noted that our Foster birds seem to recognize me.

If I lug my bucket with seed from the garage, some of the smaller guys will sit on the tree’s top branches and chirp while I reload the feeders.

Of course, I’m not making any drastic moves that might frighten them, but I think they sense I’m responsible for the meal they’re about to consume

In the warmer months, our hummingbirds will buzz nearby while I refill their sweet-tasting feeders.

I’ve also gotten clever enough to mimic a cardinal call.

If I hear one and respond, within minutes, I’ll see a bright red bird flitting from tree to tree in search of that cardinal he’s talking to.

We dropped by a local store the other evening and walked out with over $30 worth of suet cakes and a new suet feeder.

It seems to be an expense we can justify thanks to the smiles on our faces, peering out the bathroom window and watching those birds dine at our own version of the “golden arches”.

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