Did you know that February is National Bird Feeding Month?   In 1994 US Congressman John Porter from Illinois acknowledged  February as the toughest month for birds to survive, and wanted to make the public aware of this.  He was determined to educate people about bird feeding and bird watching.  

There are many things you can do to help the birds during this time.  Think about adding an extra feeder to your yard.  Fill it with seeds that are high in calories such as sunflower seeds and peanut halves.  If you want to offer birds an extra treat, consider adding suet nuggets.  These are pea-sized suet balls that can be added to your seed feeder.  This is a great way to offer birds suet if you don’t have a suet cage that holds the square suet cakes.  There are seven flavours to choose from including hot pepper which will deter squirrels.  Suet nuggets are a great way to feed perching birds this tasty morsel.

Water is also important for birds at this time of year when natural sources are frozen.  A heated bird bath allows birds to drink from open water.  In extreme cold temperatures, the water may freeze around the rim of the bath, but there will still be open water in the centre.  If you don’t have a heated bath, or a bird bath de-icer, you can always put a bowl of water in a sunny location for them.  This will allow the birds a few hours to drink before it freezes.  Bring the bowl in at night and refresh it again in the morning. 

Do you ever wonder what species you have visiting your feeder?  Peterson Field Guides can help with this.  Feeder Birds of Eastern North America is a great book if you’re looking for an easy-to-use large print identification guide to educate yourself on birds who will visit feeders. Easy-to-read maps tell us if the birds are in our area year round, or only in the summer or winter. This slim guide also provides us with important bird-feeding topics, including types of feeders and where to place them, kinds of food and when to feed, a list of birds and what their preferred seeds or fruits are, as well as a checklist to mark off which birds have been to your yard.  This is a great resource for everyone including beginning birders as well as children. 

February 18-21 gives us the opportunity to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  The bird count helps scientists better understand global bird populations before one of their annual migrations.  All you need to do is spend as little as 15 minutes, or as much time as you would like, over this 4-day period and count the birds you see in your backyard or at any of your favourite birding areas.  This is a great way to teach your children about birds and is a fun family activity!  You can check Bird Studies Canada’s website for more information.

Who knew that February was such an important month for the birds? 

Happy National Bird Feeding Month, and Happy Birding!

By Jane Paradis

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