Feeding Feathered Friends in February – National Bird-Feeding Month

By Veronika M. Heinrich

Christ­mas and New Year’s Eve are over. Now it’s already Feb­ru­ary, but Valentine’s Day is not real­ly your thing? Wor­ry not! Nation­al Bird-Feed­ing Month has arrived.

It’s just the right time of the year to pro­vide our feath­ered friends with food and water in our back­yards, then sit in front of the win­dow to watch them. It’s a great delight to see them feast on seeds. You can get in touch with nature, take a moment to relax, and help the envi­ron­ment. It’s also cheap, and kids will have a lot of fun learn­ing the dif­fer­ent birds’ names.

You’re not famil­iar with the A and O of bird-feed­ing yet? Don’t wor­ry about this either – I’ve been feed­ing birds in my yard for years. Let me feed you the most impor­tant tit­bits you need to know to participate!

In the Unit­ed States, Feb­ru­ary is Nation­al Bird-Feed­ing Month. It was orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed in 1994 to edu­cate the pub­lic about the needs of wild birds. Peo­ple should then be more aware and more encour­aged to help birds where and when they can. This month was cho­sen as it is a tra­di­tion­al­ly dif­fi­cult one for wild birds. It’s hard­er for them to find both some­thing to eat and drink – which you can eas­i­ly help them with. All you have to do is put a bowl of water and some seeds into your gar­dens. Right? That would be the eas­i­est way; if you can’t do more, that should be enough. But of course, you can always do more.

Dif­fer­ent kinds of seeds will attract dif­fer­ent kinds of birds, and the loca­tion also plays a role. While wood­peck­ers are more like­ly to stay in the trees and snack on bird food, birds like spar­rows pre­fer to stay on the ground. So, your choice of food and its place­ment will impact which birds vis­it you. There’s no such thing as ‘desir­able birds’ and ‘less desir­able birds’. Every one of them has a unique role in the ecosys­tem, and every one of them is beau­ti­ful in their very own way.

Long-tailed-tits feed­ing on fat balls

There are numer­ous ways of pre­sent­ing seeds to birds. For exam­ple, there are fat balls, which you have sure­ly seen before. They usu­al­ly come in nets so you can hang them in trees. Many peo­ple don’t know that these nets can be dan­ger­ous for birds – small­er ones could get stuck in them, and big­ger ones, like seag­ulls, could swal­low the plas­tic. Those hun­gry giants tend to eat with­out think­ing because what’s down their throats can’t be stolen from them any­more. The plas­tic, how­ev­er, remains inside the bird’s body and caus­es the bird to no longer feel hun­gry, which could lead to star­va­tion. Instead, you can put fat balls in bird­feed­ers like in the pic­ture. The small­er birds will enjoy eat­ing them just as much; only the big­ger birds won’t have access. But we don’t want to for­get them either, do we?

Hawfinch on a hop­per feeder

When it comes to big­ger birds, you can put seeds on the ground so they can reach them eas­i­ly. You could also turn a bowl upside down and put some seeds on top of it, like a tiny table. You can also build a bird­house – which is a great, cre­ative activ­i­ty pop­u­lar with all age groups. Many birds in my gar­den espe­cial­ly enjoy a hop­per feed­er – they can land on it for just a sec­ond, pick a seed, and fly off into a safe tree.

Young black­bird tak­ing a bath

There are a few pre­cau­tions you should take so that you don’t harm the birds. For exam­ple, you should nev­er feed them milk as they are not able to digest it. Instead, offer them water. You may want to put up a fan­cy bird bath, which would be super dec­o­ra­tive in your gar­den. But you could also put out a plate or a bowl filled with water. Since birds like to bathe in the water, make sure to change the water and clean the bowl reg­u­lar­ly. You wouldn’t want a dirty bath­tub, would you? Final­ly, food such as salty treats, des­ic­cat­ed coconut, and meal­worms shouldn’t be offered as they cause stom­ach problems.

Black­bird father feed­ing his hatchlings

And what hap­pens when February’s over? Well, bird-feed­ing doesn’t have to be lim­it­ed to a spe­cial time of the year. Back in the day, we used to feed birds only in win­ter when there weren’t any insects to eat. But with the num­ber of birds con­stant­ly decreas­ing, you might as well sup­port them all year long. Help­ing out by pro­vid­ing food and water will also increase the chances for hatch­lings to grow up and survive.

Apart from feed­ing, you can take many oth­er steps to make birds feel at home in your yard. Here are some instruc­tions on how to make your home more bird-friend­ly: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/spring-2022/seven-ways-make-your-home-more-bird-friendly

If you’d like to learn more and want to find fur­ther ways to help birds in your yard, the Audubon Soci­ety offers a lot of inspi­ra­tion. They’re a sci­en­tif­ic orga­ni­za­tion that aims to pro­tect birds and edu­cate peo­ple. They offer mag­a­zines and an app for bird iden­ti­fi­ca­tion so that you’ll know who exact­ly is feast­ing on your seeds. On their web­site, they also show fun activ­i­ties, like how you can make a bird­bath or your own suet: https://www.audubon.org/get-outside/activities

Now it’s time to get start­ed and help wild birds. Have lots of fun feed­ing them!

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