Good Things To Eat: For The Birds
Nuts, seeds, millet and flax aren’t just for people who like to snack. While you’re stocking up on things to nibble during the colder days to come, don’t forget our feathered friends.
Setting up feeders to attract birds is a fun and easy way to enjoy nature as the seasons change. The Carolinas are abundant with native wild birds, while many others migrate long distances that carry them from cold climates to warmer ones. Even if you’ve never seen a Black-throated Blue Warbler, there’s a chance you will – because they travel the Atlantic Flyway through both Carolinas on their journey from Canada to the Caribbean.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has great tips for making and keeping bird food safe. A good example: Suet made from beef fat can turn rancid in milder temperatures and should only be offered in winter.
Like cheap trail mix in a no-name package, bags of bargain seeds often contain lots of filler, such as grass seeds, that birds will strew upon the ground as they dig for the good stuff. It’s better to buy sunflower seeds. The “black oil” variety have softer shells that are easier for smaller birds to open, but the cracked shells can result in a mess under the feeder. You can avoid that problem by purchasing hulled seeds, but these are expensive and will attract plenty of ravenous squirrels. Different mixes of peanuts, cracked corn, safflower and other seeds will entice a variety of birds.
While some foods are enjoyed by humans and winged creatures alike – well, maybe not the insect larvae known as mealworms – others are harmful when birds ingest them. The Humane Society of the U.S. cautions against feeding birds table scraps and especially chocolate. Cookies and even bread are unhealthy because they contain little nutritional value.
Creating a hands-on craft project is one of the best ways to get kids engaged in learning about wildlife. Here’s a recipe that’s truly “for the birds.”
Pinecone Birdseed Treats
Pinecones (dry and free of debris)
Shelled sunflower seeds
Tie a length of string about 10” long to the top of each pinecone and make a loop that will allow it to hang from a tree branch.
Roll out a length of waxed paper and smooth out a layer of seeds on it. Using a spoon, smear each pinecone with peanut butter, then roll it in the seeds. Place each one on the cookie sheet. Freeze overnight.
Hang from a nearby tree a safe distance from windows.
If you can’t hang a feeder where you live, you can bird-watch virtually on Cornell’s live “FeederCam.”
Then watch the birds flock to your yard for the best grub in town.