For the Birds

An Eastern bluebird
An Eastern bluebird AP photo

Every fall, right around the time the last of the leaves have been raked up, my husband and I dig out our bird feeders from the garage, clean them and fill them with fresh seed.

It’s a ritual we started some 11 years ago when we moved into a home with a back deck, one where we could hang a feeder and then watch as all manner of birds flew in for a bite to eat.

In the Northeast winter is one of the most important times to feed our winged friends, as the food in their natural habitat becomes scarce and the weather turns harsh. But fall and spring are also times when birds need help finding food as they migrate to and from nesting areas.

I’ve also recently learned, thanks to the National Audubon Society, that birds could use help supplementing their wild food supplies during the summer months when they are busy nesting and feeding their young.

According to the Audubon Society there are some 100 North American bird species that supplement their diets by foraging at domestic feeders. The society offers three basic tips for how to feed birds:

Use quality seeds and vary the food supply.

Provide fresh water for drinking and bathing

Try to provide birds with ample cover by planting native plants that can become nesting sites and safe havens from predators.

If you have a feeder, you can help your winged friends even more by participating in the Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count of 2011, which takes place in February. The count is “an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent and in Hawaii,” according to the society.

The conservation group also is sponsoring a Christmas bird count, from Dec. 14 of this year, to Jan. 5, 2011 to help assess the health of winter bird populations across the country.

For more information on the counts, how to take part, or how to start feeding birds in your backyard, visit www.audubon.org.

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