HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Dec. 26, 2005

Feeding birds in winter essential and enjoyable

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

During the winter months, local backyard bird watchers feed their feathery friends to help them survive the winter, while enjoying their company too.

“I’ll sit and drink my coffee in the morning and watch the birds come and eat,” Darwin bird watcher Jane Miller said.

“It’s fun to see how each one is so different,” she said.

In the fall, some birds migrate to a warmer climate, such as the hummingbird, blue bird and the robin, but several stick out the cold winter For example, the northern cardinal and the blue jay stay. The junko is another bird that comes for the winter.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, birds get one-fourth of their food from the people who feed them.

Birds will feed on seeds all year long but suet is a good addition during the winter months. Suet is animal fat that typically attracts insect feeding birds such as the nuthatch, goldfinch, and chickadees.

Suet is a plentiful alternative for insects and a quick sources of heat and energy for the birds, according to Birds and Blooms.

Suet feeders can be onion sacks, wire mesh feeders, or on flat platforms according to the DNR.

Roger Salmela of Cokato feeds mainly the gold finches. “I’ve noticed when all four of my feeders are full I will have 25 to 30 finches, but when the feeders get below half full, there are only three or four at a time,” he said.

Curt and Betty Grundahl has two pileated wood peckers that they feed. “We put suet on a post for them,” Betty said.

The pileated woodpecker is a large bird with a wingspan between 26 to 30 inches wide and a height between 16 and 19 inches.

Sam Whitesell of Dassel enjoys watching her birds outside her large kitchen window. “Winter can get so mundane, so it’s fun to sit and drink my coffee and look out my kitchen window at all the birds that come to eat,” Whitesell said.

She recommends placing bird feeders closer to pine trees and other types of shelter against those strong winter winds.

Whitesell mostly uses sunflower seeds like black oil sunflower seeds which are a high energy food source for song birds during the cold months. Also, cardinal mixes can be bought pre-made in a specialty mix for the Northern Cardinal.

Chickadees and woodpeckers enjoy peanut feeders. Whitesell and her children will make their birds pinecones with peanut butter on them, “It’s a fun activity to do with kids,” she said.

Another activity that is fun for the kids and is enjoyed by the birds as well, is placing an old Christmas tree in the yard. Whitesell and her kids make popcorn on strings along with cranberries and pinecones. “Christmas vacation can get long for the kids, so it’s a fun activity for them to do and throughout the winter they keep refurbishing the tree. They just love it,” she said.

Another option is shelled peanuts for blue jays and squirrels, Miller said. These can be scattered about a picnic table or on the ground, she said.

What about water? Since birds need to drink in the winter as well, Barb Kaczmarek recommends a heated bird bath which can be purchased at home improvement stores. “The birds just love it,” she said.

Shelled corn can also be used but is best placed away from the house for squirrels, pheasants and rabbits according to the DNR web site. This is also another way to deter the squirrels from eating the bird food, Whitesell said.

She adores animals and she thinks it’s important to take care of the birds throughout the winter and all year long. “It’s a fun thing for me to do as well as for my kids,” Whitesell said.

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