Saturday, January 17, 2015

FEEDING, PROTECTING (AND COUNTING!) OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS

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

20 comments:

Lynda Turpin said...

I put out wild bird seed and black oil sunflower seed year round. When it started getting colder, I added dried corn and a seed cake in a metal cage. I also put some nails in the fence, and I stick 1/2 slices of apples for the birds and squirrels. This time of year they need a bit more food.

When I first moved in here, there were no feral cats and I loved to sit on the patio and watch the birds. But once the ferals moved in, it is so much more difficult. I have to make sure that feeders are high enough that the cats can't reach them and I try to keep them full so the birds don't go to the ground to eat, because they just become cat snacks. The mourning doves are the worst - they are definitely not the sharpest tack in the wall, and sometimes I'll look out and a dove is eating on the grass with a cat stalking up toward to. The bird just sits there. There were times when I would have 30-40 doves in my yard at once. Now I just get a few at a time.

I'm glad I'm able to help the cats, but I miss being able to enjoy the birds.

Aurian said...

I love watching birds. A few years ago, I had lots of little sparrows and "koolmees" (not going to use the word Google translate told me!) in my garden. I fed them with bird feed and they also love plain white rice. But last few years, the only birds I see (and hear) are those big city doves, and crows. It seems like all the smaller birds have disappeared and I miss them.

mary kennedy said...

Having trouble logging in to leave a reply, but thank you for stopping by, Lynda, I'll leave a reply on FB.

mary kennedy said...

I noticed the same thing, Aurian, lots of doves and crows, although I did see a couple of cardinals yesterday. Thanks for stopping by!

mary kennedy said...

I think it's working now...I love the idea of the "fruit on the fence" and will try it, Lynda. Also, I hear ya about the doves, it's like they have a death wish. They just sit there, absolutely clueless. All my cats are indoor cats and pose no threat, but a couple of neighborhood cats are indoor/outdoor.

Gram said...

We also live in the Northeast and our little birds love to nest under the back deck. We see them fly in and out through the lattice all day. We also keep the feeder full...the squirrels can have what is on the ground!

mary kennedy said...

Glad you are feeding our feathered friends, Gram! It's hard to find a feeder that the squirrels can't dismantle, I've tried several.

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

I love watching birds and had 4 feeders and 2 humming bird ones when I owned my house. Now in this 55 and over complex, they won't let us feed the birds. One reason is the feral cats that are around.We are allowed to have up to 2 cats but have to keep them inside. They don't want us to feed the roaming ones. My Bessie loves to sit and look out at the woods behind my place and watch the birds but they are few and far between. At least in the Summer I have plants that the humming birds like and they do come to eat.. I think this year I might try a small bird bath but those darn roaming cats might get into that.. My neighbor saw 6 or 7 cats yesterday. There are some apartments not far from us and we think they might feed them. I miss feeding birds but don't want to be kicked out of my apartment. Sigh! Any ideas?

Connie P. said...

I've been feeding the birds, too. Boy, do they let me know when they want more! Found out there are a few squirrels that take choice seating for their meal.

mary kennedy said...

HI Diane, I never know what to do about bird baths. The birds seem pretty savvy and there are only a couple of "neighborhood cats" so I usually just take a chance. I wish a local animal group could come and do a sweep and neuter the ferals. There are several cat rescue groups in my area that do that. It wouldn't solve the immediate problem because the neutered cats are returned to the same location, but at least the feral cat colony would eventually die out. I would never last in an over 55 complex, I have 8 cats. Way too many, I know, but they are all rescues. I wish I could think of something to help you.

mary kennedy said...

Connie, I noticed the same thing, I was surprised at how territorial they are! Thanks for stopping by.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Wonderful post, Mary! We love our brave little winter birds here and keep our feeders full, including the so-called 'squirrel-proof'. Snort!


Hugs.

MJ

mary kennedy said...

Hi MJ, thank you so much!! I meant to add, never leave peanuts on a screened in porch. Before we had our sun porch glassed-in, it was screen on three sides. I foolishly forgot a bag of peanuts out there and the squirrels dug through the screen to get it! What a mess. Big holes where they burrowed inside.

mary kennedy said...

If birds can make it in Canada, they can make it anywhere, MJ! They must be very resilient birds!

Lynda Turpin said...

What's also really sad about the doves is that they mate for life, and when one is killed, the other sits and cries. It's such a mournful sound (and why they are called "Mourning Doves"). It breaks my heart to hear it.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Hitchcock has a lot to answer for! Since I saw "The Birds" lo these many years ago, I am afraid of them. I can admire their grace in flight but I don't want to be up close and personal which makes sight-seeing in cities, esp European cities, a bit uncomfortable for me.

Margaret said...

I love participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count! We have been counting for several years, but usually just in the backyard. Last year we counted at home and then thought about venturing out to count another day some where in the community; but the weather side tracked us. We are hoping to try and get out this year.
I love feeding the birds and other critters. I have a bowl style bird feeder right outside a window on my back sun porch and I fill it with whole (in the shell) peanuts. The Blue Jays always let me know when it needs to be refilled. My cats love to watch them stop by to pick up their peanuts.
The rest of my birds love their suet, nyjer and sunflower seeds.

mary kennedy said...

Margaret, that's wonderful that you've been participating, I love the idea and can't wait to get started. Thanks for stopping by. I didn't know Blue Jays would eat peanuts. I'll put out extra (I've been putting them out for the squirrels.)

mary kennedy said...

OMG, yes, The Birds! Tippi Hedren said she had nightmares for years after that movie! It's a shame it keeps you from traveling...you wouldn't want to be caught up in a swarm of pigeons at St. Mark's Square. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't keep me from traveling, and I have been caught in a swarm of pigeons in St. Mark's Square and many other places but I just don't enjoy it as much as I would like.