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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter when birds need food help

        Winter is a time birds can use your help. 
The long period from after the holidays through the NCAA tournament and possibly seeing Kentucky’s Wildcats in the finals, is one of the toughest to weather for birds, says Kate Heyden, avian biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.
“Winter is the best time to feed birds as they need the food now more than at any other time of year and you will typically see a greater number and variety of birds at bird feeders,” according Heyden in a KDFWR release.
She said Kentucky receives many interesting birds from the north in winter and again in spring when many species return home from lands south of us, providing a great variety of species to see.
Bird watching is a good way to introduce kids into the outdoors and spark awareness of our natural world. It is also productive practice for bird hunters, who must make quick identifications of birds in the field.  
“You don’t need to spend money on food or feeders to attract birds to your yard,” Heyden said. “If you can leave a small area of your yard un-mowed, you can attract a lot of birds. They eat the seeds from the grasses and weeds and use the area for cover as well.”
Using a feeder grants the ability for close study of birds. Heyden explained all feeders draw birds, but those that keep the bird feed dry and free of mold are best. Moldy seeds are bad for bird health. 
Place feeders either near a window or fairly far away to help prevent birds from colliding with windows when startled.
The most common feeder is a hopper or house feeder, usually made of windows of clear plastic with that feed seed to a perching surface. These feeders attract cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, grosbeaks, buntings and titmice.
“One without a lot of perching surface minimizes use by house sparrows or starlings,” Heyden explained. “The most important thing is to keep feeders clean by washing with bleach water every few weeks.” Washing with bleach water prevents the spread of disease.
Although slightly more expensive, Heyden feeds birds black oil sunflower seeds. “They attract a wide variety of desirable birds without attracting as many pest species,” she said. “The cheap bird feed is full of filler and often contains corn which attracts squirrels, house sparrows starlings and crows.”
A suet feeder attracts woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and bluejays. Some birders push suet or peanut butter into crevices in bark or in the cracks of old stumps to attract these birds.

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