All about birds

by

Friday, August 15 2008

            Today I learned what it is to feel inadequate at the hand of avid bird watchers. A swarm of them stood by to ask questions of John Schaust, the chief naturalist of Wild Birds Unlimited, who was on the Front Porch of the Natural Resources Building to talk to fairgoers about the joys of bird-feeders.

While this pastime may seem like just that, an inconsequential hobby, Schaust explained that putting out bird feeders in your backyard can actually save birds’ lives. He said in 10-degree weather, birds that have no access to bird feeders have a 50 percent higher mortality rate than those that did.

Also, birds that have access to feeders tend to nest earlier and are generally healthier. Furthermore, birds near bird feeders average one extra bird born per season. So really by putting a bird feeder in your back yard, you’re saving bird lives and making it possible for more to be created.

            A big part of Schaust’s presentation was showing off different bird seeds that are available and which ones will bring in which birds. Sparrows, for example, are partial to white ground seed and millet seed. Woodpeckers, on the other hand, love peanuts and suet, which will attract insects and therefore insect-eating birds. Schaust also had some meal worms, which he recommends you put in a glass bowl and set on a post to attract bluebirds.

One fun part about bird feeding is birds can follow a schedule just like you – say you refill the bird feeder right before you sit down to breakfast. Birds will begin to anticipate this timing and learn to sit nearby waiting for you to come out.

            Schaust also introduced a new product called Bark Butter, which is a mixture of cornmeal, suet and peanut butter. To attract woodpeckers, drill a few holes in your backyard trees and fill them with this goop – they go crazy for it.

            If bird baths are more up your alley, Schaust recommends very shallow pools – birds prefer to splash around when they bathe, not absolutely submerge themselves.

            For more information, stop by Wild Birds Unlimited.

If you’re an extreme carnivorous bird fanatic, come to the NRB at 4:30 p.m. Saturday for Live Birds of Prey in the Amphitheater.

— Katy

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