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Birds flock to feeders year ’round

Red-bellied woodpecker at suet feeder. (C) Photo happy2be/Pixabay

I love feeding and watching the birds. It’s one of my year-round joys.

I’m not alone. Nearly half of all U.S. households, 52.5 million, buy wild bird seed, according to a 2015 report from the research foundation of the Wild Bird Feeding Industry, a trade association. That’s up from 34.3 percent in 2013, which is quite a jump.

Other sources estimate we spend about $3 billion a year on bird seed, feeders and accessories.

My interest in birds grew out of gardening. I feed and watch birds year-round. I have 11 feeders – two for finches, two for sunflower seeds, one for safflower seeds, one for peanuts in shells, one for shelled peanuts, two for suet and one platform feeder with mixed seeds. In summer, I have five bird baths. In winter, there are two, which are heated.

When starting out feeding the birds, a lot of us buy seed that is mixed. With experience, though, we learn that isn’t the best choice. Feeders with single seeds, such as one for sunflower and one for Niger thistle, reduce waste. I do use a mix for finches because they have not been eating the straight Niger thistle.

My feeders are in places where I can see them from windows in the living room, kitchen, home office and a bedroom. Two hang in a flowering dogwood in the front yard and the rest are in trees or on poles in the back.

Jim Carpenter, founder of Wild Birds Unlimited, celebrates the Joy of Birdfeeding. Photo courtesy wbu.com

This winter, my yard has been full of white-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, and downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, the latter among my favorites. I credit new feeders for shelled peanuts and suet for these visits.

Once you start feeding the birds, you’ll notice more and more of them. You’ll recognize their calls or tweets. Nuthatches sound like a squeak toy, for instance, and chickadees have a plaintive call. Red-bellied woodpeckers sound like they are scolding, robins sound alarms if you walk too close to a fledgling, and lots of birds sound alarms when hawks are on the wing.

“I feed the birds because it brings me joy,” wrote Jim Carpenter, founder of the Indianapolis-based  Wild Birds Unlimited, in his book, The Joy of Bird Feeding (2017, Scott & Nix, Inc., publisher, paperback, $28). “Watching birds at your feeders fills the spaces in your day. Every time you glance out the window, you are blessed with a little bit of nature.”

Give it a try. Wonderful discoveries await you.

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