February is for the birds

By Roger Wolfe

To be more accurate, it is for feeding the birds. February is National Bird Feeding Month. Although the shortest month of the year, it is often the harshest and most challenging for our fine feathered friends and all other manner of wildlife.

Even with the mild winter we have had thus far, a bird feeder is a great way to get closer to nature and see plenty of different species of our feathered neighbors. Backyard feeders filled with any manner of feed can draw a number of different species on any given day.

Bird watchers can rest assured that if you fill it, they will come. Even with the relatively warm winter this year, a full feeder stays busy all day long with birds jockeying for position to get an easy meal.

What you place in those feeders can help determine what type of birds will flock to it. Some species are more opportunistic than others and will readily take any free handout they can get.

If you are looking for smaller birds like finches, indigo buntings or pine siskins, try filling a feeder with Nyjer seeds, commonly called thistle seeds. These small seeds require a feeder with small holes or slots that are usually too small for bigger birds to stick their beaks into and waste the seed they aren’t interested in.

Looking to invite bigger birds, give cracked corn or millet a try. Blue Jays, cardinals, crows and the like all love cracked and whole kernel corn. Caution, if you have a few neighborhood deer around, they will spend as much time at a bird feeder of corn as the birds will.

If squirrels are a constant menace of your backyard feeder, be sure to give Safflower seeds a try. Birds such as Cardinals and Mourning Doves enjoy them and, best of all, squirrels generally don’t care for them and will leave your feeder alone.

My personal favorite seeds are sunflower seeds. Just about every bird around will flock to a feeder filled with sunflowers. Granted, squirrels, mice and even deer will sometimes stop by as well, but all are welcome at this feeder.

There are also many commercial mixes of seeds available for bird feeders. Mixes are fine, but they often create a lot of waste as birds will often high grade the seeds, kicking out the less tasty ones to feast on the favored ones first.

There are, also, suet feeders. These feeders tend to draw in a few bird species that don’t frequent conventional feeders. Suet is made of beef fat and is often mixed with a variety of seeds and generally appeals to chickadees, nuthatches and even woodpeckers who will regularly visit a well-stocked and maintained suet feeder.

I will warn you that watching birds at a feeder can become addictive. Flitting and fluttering here and there, jockeying and fighting for position and sometimes even taking turns. They are quite interesting to watch and listen to their interactions.

If you get interested, you can do a quick internet search to find a check-off list of local feeder visitors so that you can even keep track of your own visitors. West Virginia is home to a huge number of different species of birds and even in the winter there can seem to be a different bird showing up every day.

In honor of National Bird Feeding Month, be sure to keep those feeders full and take a few moments each day to watch the neighbors that stop by for a quick snack. If you watch closely, you are sure to see at least a couple of new birds showing up every day.

Roger Wolfe is an Outdoor Columnist for Civitas media. For questions, comments, or future story ideas he can be contacted at [email protected]

By Roger Wolfe

Roger Wolfe writes about the outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers.

Roger Wolfe writes about the outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers.

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