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Inviting Birds to Your Yard

It’s a cold winter day and everything seems to quiet and still outside. You suppose that most of the birds, or perhaps all of them, have flown south for the winter.  Well, not necessarily!  There are still plenty of birds around, if you know how to attract them.

There are a few simple things you can do to bring birds to your yard and make them very happy to visit again and again.

·         Feed them:   Offer several different types of bird food in different locations and in different types of feeders.   If you have different types of food, you are more likely to attract more birds and different types of birds.  It doesn’t need to be fancy. A plastic bowl attached to a fence post, a hanging bird feeder, or even a flat rock (as long as there are no neighborhood cats around) all make suitable feeders. You can get large quantities of wild bird food at your local feed store or even the grocery store. Be sure to get wild bird food and not the expensive pet bird food. You can even offer ears of corn for larger birds.       

·         Give them a drink:  Water is important for birds, even in winter and especially if there is snow and ice on the ground. If you can, place fresh water outside a couple of times a day. If the water freezes quickly, you can get a bird bath heater. They aren’t very expensive. It’s a little gadget that comes with a timer and keeps the water from freezing, providing the birds with water all day long. It won’t take long before every bird in the area knows that your yard is the best oasis in town!  You will be amazed at the activity around the bird bath.          

·         Give ‘em shelter: Even though they are covered in feathers, birds still need to stay warm. Have you seen their feet? That’s gotta be cold!  So provide ways for birds to get out of the rain, snow, wind and cold.   Bird houses are nice. Roosting boxes are great. They have holes on or near the bottom of the box to keep heat in.  Dense bushes and trees, such as evergreens also act a natural shelters for birds. Even a simple wooden box, nailed to a fence can provide excellent shelter for a bird with cold feet.           

·         Suet is superb: What, you ask, is suet? It’s kinds gropss, actua;lly, but birds love it! It is just some form of fat, usually with seeds, nuts or even dried fruit mixed in. Because it has a lot of fat, it is high in calories.  That gives the birds a bit of extra energy and that helps them stay warm. You can usually buy suet at the local grocery, and it’s inexpensive. However, it’s even more fun to make your own.

My grandmother used to make these suet pine cones and the birds just love them!  If your parents fry bacon, or grill any kind of meat, there is usually some extra fat that melts off the meat. Just allow the fat to cool and harden. Then smush the hardened fat into the sides of a pine cone.  You can even mix in peanut butter. Then sprinkle the fat-smushed pinecone with different seeds or wild bird food.

You can have your parents attach the pinecone to a fence with some wire or you can hang it on a tree with some twine. Either way, the birds will go crazy over it.

If you don’t have any pinecones you can use the mesh bags that onions or potatos come in. You can have your parents cut scraps of fat off meat, or even pieces of raw bacon. You can also use the hardened cooked fat.  Add seeds, peanuts, or dried fruit and tie tightly so the birds won’t get tangles in the netting. Cut off excess netting and hang it from a tree. Again, you will be amazed at the number of birds who drop by from a high calorie treat. You may wish to get a bird identification book or print a list of local birds from the internet so that you can keep track of which birds visit your yard.

It might be a good idea to take the suet feeder down at night, or else a hungry raccoon or squirrel may decide they need it more than the birds do.

Either way - enjoy taking care of your local birds by keeping them healthy and happy during winter’s coldest months.

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