Feeding birds makes a difference in winter

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  • Photos by DON BARTLING The Mountain Chickadee is abundant in Boundary County and readily attracted to bird feeders.

  • 1

    A Pileated Woodpecker (center) and a Red Breasted Nuthatch (right, on the suet block) meet in the winter at bird feeders.

  • Photos by DON BARTLING The Mountain Chickadee is abundant in Boundary County and readily attracted to bird feeders.

  • 1

    A Pileated Woodpecker (center) and a Red Breasted Nuthatch (right, on the suet block) meet in the winter at bird feeders.

Mammals have begun to hunker down in warm dens. Many birds have left the area to spend the season basking in the southern climates of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Some birds, though, do not migrate south for the winter. Remaining in neighborhoods all across Boundary County, these hardy winter residents bring a splash of color and hours of entertainment to backyards everywhere.

Birds, like mammals, are warm-blooded animals and must maintain a constant body temperature as the temperature around them changes. To do this, they spend much of their time feeding so they can generate enough heat. It’s a vicious cycle though; they must eat to keep warm so they can gather more food. Birds that can switch from an insect diet to a seed diet can stay put throughout the winter.

For birds, finding food and water during the coldest months of the year can be a formidable task. In especially tough winters, birds rely on the kindness of strangers, providing feeders for them. Feeding birds is a popular hobby and easy to do.

A feeding area should provide birds with easy access to food while also providing protective cover from predators and neighborhood cats. Set up feeding stations near shrubs, trees, brush piles or fences to give birds easy access and protection. Evergreens provide excellent cover and protection, and are a natural source of food.

By using specific styles of bird feeders and different seed mixtures, one can attract specific birds to a yard. Mixed bird seed on a simple tray or platform feeder mounted above the ground attracts Mountain Chickadees, sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and Steller’s jays.

A tube feeder filled with sunflower seed is sure to delight smaller birds such as the American goldfinch, and black-capped chickadees. Thistle seed in a tube feeder is a favorite of American goldfinches, house finches, chickadees and a variety of sparrows.

Dried fruit can also be hung and is a favorite of some of the larger species of birds such as woodpeckers, starlings, cedar waxwings, and Steller’s jays. Suet attracts chickadees, nuthatches, brown creepers, woodpeckers, and wrens. Suet should be hung high enough so that dogs, cats and other animals cannot reach it. Mixed seed and sunflower seed spread on the ground will bring sparrows, and common flickers.

Attracting and feeding birds awakens a lifeless yard, porch or patio. The brief, gray days of winter are brighter and more tolerable with the addition of song, color and activity. By providing for the needs of these active and delicate visitors, we bring the natural world and its beauty a little closer to home.

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