Saturday, January 17, 2015


by Mary Kennedy     

Whether they're exotic parrots or "ordinary sparrows," birds are fascinating creatures. We can watch them for hours, enjoying their antics as they scramble for food, show "dominance" behaviors, and sip water from our backyard bird baths.  In an earlier blog, I offered some suggestions for making your backyard "wildlife friendly."

During the winter, wild birds need our help. Temperatures drop in many parts of the country (I live in the Northeast) and the frigid cold means lack of food for birds and possible hypothermia. Seeds are developed to target certain species of birds and you can decide which birds would most benefit. Usually I buy a mixture. Try to place the seeds under an overhang, if you can, so they don't get buried in the snow. Refill water dishes frequently as the water tends to freeze.
Suet and seed cakes are good choices.
 It's best to put suet in specially designed cages, otherwise the squirrels will run off with them.  (Don't worry, I'm not depriving squirrels of food, I buy peanuts in the shell and dried ears of corn for them--much to the dismay of my neighbors!).                          

Did you know that vertical uncapped pipes can be deadly to wild birds? Please check your yard to make sure you don't have any.

All across the country, as temperatures drop, millions of birds and small animals climb into pipes for warmth--and can't get out. Some states (California and Nevada) have tried to combat these wildlife deaths by legislating against them. They've forbidden the use of new, uncapped pipes as mining claim markers. It's a good law, but almost impossible to enforce.
Uncapped pipes are used to vent plumbing, link fencing, survey land, stake signs and more. Birds are trapped in the narrow shaft--they can't spread their wings to escape and die a slow death.
You may think you don't have any uncapped vertical pipes or structures in your yard, but please take a closer look.

Do you have a chimney with no mesh screen on top? Remember that plastic piping you put up last summer to service as a lattice work for plants? Does each pipe have a cap on it?  If not, they could be deadly.   

Would you like to join the Great Backyard Bird Count and help scientists better understand the wild bird population?

It's fun, it's easy to do and you'll be helping a good cause. This project of the National Audubon Society goes back to 1998 and over a hundred thousand people have already participated. You could be one of them! Last year, people in 111 countries counted over 34 million birds. This could be a fun project for you and the kids.

Go to the Great Backyard Bird Count and agree to watch birds for 15 minutes a day from Feb 13-16 and then record your findings. You'll be helping scientists learn how weather and climate change affect bird populations as they compare migrations with past years.

Thank you for helping protect our feathered friends and next year, our backyards will be filled with the lovely chirping of happy, healthy birds.

Mary Kennedy