Foodies For the Birds

Right now, in my neck of the woods, fall is coming. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and I’m blessed I get to experience four of them in the Midwest. Today, we’re veering from human food to food that’s literally “for the birds.”

Because I’ve lived in an apartment for so long (some place or another), I don’t always get to have things like patio furniture, lawn ornaments, or bird feeders. If I could, I’d definitely be feeding the birds from at least two feeders. My dad kept them and one of his favorite things to do while relaxing in his recliner was to watch the birds in their feeders outside the living room window.

Since we associate this season as one of bird migration, we should remember that some birds benefit from feeders all year long. Birds have a year-round need for reliable, steady food sources. They get the bulk of their food from natural sources, but knowing what food types you should feed during each of the four seasons enables you to help backyard birds stay alive and healthy all year.

Another school of thought is the opposite of whether to and what to feed birds during winter. People sometimes think it’s unnecessary to keep feeders in summer. They take the feeders down in the summer months because they think it should be easier for birds to find food then. According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are good reasons for not putting the feeder away during the warmer months. The bonus with that idea is you get to enjoy the birds all year long.

Plus, with the soaring summer temperatures, it’s easy for birds to become dehydrated so in addition to plenty of food, they need fresh, clean water. Placing a bird bath and cleaning it regularly provides a place for birds to cool off and get a quick drink during blistering summer days. Cleaning your bird bath regularly in summer helps to avoid the spread of illness and disease. And you wouldn’t want to bathe in or drink icky water, would you?

These are some birds I get to enjoy even during my Michigan winters. —–>

Here in the northern hemisphere,  autumn can be the best time to see a wide variety of birds at your feeders. Many birds migrate in the fall and feeders provide a welcome place to refuel their energy along the way. During this time, birds need foods high in fatty oils and calories to replenish themselves during their incredible marathon flights. Some of the best options are:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Nyjer® seed
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Nectar (Hummingbirds need to refuel as well)

These choices are also ideal for birds that do not migrate for winter. Establishing a reliable food source in the fall will ensure your backyard birds are kept fed in the rough winter months. They’ll return to places where they’re used to finding a regular food supply.

Since some birds remain in the same location year round, winter is one of the most pertinent times to feed the birds. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates, or when temperatures drop to freezing. These birds require high calorie and oil-rich foods to survive shorter, colder days. Winter birds benefit from foods such as:

  • Suet (especially good in winter, high fat content)
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Black oil sunflower seeds (contains twice as many calories as striped sunflower seeds)
  • White Proso Millet

Other ideas for feeding your feathered friends with stuff you have right in your kitchen are:

Baked eggshells They provide calcium, which can be essential for females during nesting season. It’s extremely important that you wash and bake the shells to kill any potential pathogens. After you bake them, crush them and add to the bird seed or just sprinkle them on the ground. They work well in a standard platform feeder.

Nuts If you have some roasted nuts past their prime, put them out and see which birds take a bite. Salted nuts are okay too but put them in a bag first and shake as much salt off as you can. Or clean them with a moist paper towel, then dry them in a flat pan. A little salt won’t hurt them, but too much isn’t good for birds. Don’t use whole nuts. Break them into pieces. This is crucial during summer because mother birds may feed them to their chicks with disastrous results. The idea is to aid the bird population, not harm it.

Roasted seeds Plenty of birds are seed eaters, so this one seems like a no-brainer. You might consider going beyond the commercial sunflower and safflower varieties. Keep the seeds from your fall pumpkins and squash and bake up a batch. Reserve a few for yourself and munch on seeds while you watch (out the window like my dad did) the birds enjoying a different kind of treat. Remember, your seeds can be salted, but add it to your portion after you’ve baked them. Northern cardinals (plentiful during a Michigan winter for me) and sparrows especially enjoy seeds.

If you’re new to feeding wild birds or even if you’re not, be aware of some common misunderstandings and mistakes we make when setting up feeders and keeping them stocked.

No matter how much you do, the simple act of feeding feathered friends in your backyard will make a monumental difference in the world around you. When you feed birds, you help more baby birds survive. Baby birds will then grow to adulthood and continue to strengthen the population. The improved and strengthened population of birds will eat more insects and help to keep those populations low, so you’ll need fewer chemicals to control them. Because you’re using fewer chemicals, the environment becomes healthier for you, your children, your pets, our water supply. And the wild birds.

Be a blessing to the birds today

Fun fact Saying that someone “eats like a bird” has a literal meaning and doesn’t apply to a human’s eating habits. (Probably) If we ate like a bird, we would consume five times our own weight in food each day. To keep them in flight, birds have a high metabolism rate. That’s why it seems they’re always feeding when you see them. They probably are because they’re trying to maintain their energy level.

 

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