Let's feed the birds

COURTESY PHOTO Above: Jennifer Littlefield, right, Reference Librarian, and Dianne Gropper, Huron Area Master Gardener, encourages everyone to stop by the Huron Public Library to browse the display, its resources, and enter into drawing for a bird feeder that will be held Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Feeders benefit birds most during the winter when natural foods supplies are scarce.  The best foods to offer birds in colder weather have a high fat or oil content such as black oil sunflower seed, peanuts, Nyjer seed, suet, and white millet seed.

It’s easy to get started with feeding birds. Retail stores have a variety of bird feeders and food options. Suet cages, a favorite feeder among homeowners and birds, provide a high-energy food source to birds during cold winter months.  

Chickadees, nuthatches, and finches prefer tube feeders that allow them to hang onto a perch and peck out a mixture of small seeds. Larger birds such as cardinals, woodpeckers, and blue jays like hopper/platform feeders that allow them to be upright while eating oilseed and sunflower seeds. Woodpeckers and nuthatches are especially attracted to peanut feeders and patiently peck at unshelled peanuts for the nugget. Sparrows, doves, and juncos prefer to eat on the ground and will clean up beneath feeders hung above.  Finches are attracted to ready-to-hang mesh feeders containing Nyger seed and also simple homemade peanut butter suet mixtures that are easily hung in trees.  

Easy Bird Suet Recipe
only 5 ingredients
• 1 cup shortening (such as lard or Crisco)
• 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
• 2 cups oatmeal
• 1 cup cornmeal
• 2 cups birdseed

Melt shortening and peanut butter together in heavy pan over medium heat. Do not boil.

Remove from heat. Stir in oatmeal. Stir in birdseed and cornmeal. Pack down tight into small containers. Wrap in aluminum foil. Place containers into freezer overnight.

Allow suet to thaw a bit before trying to remove from containers. No need to completely thaw.

Reference Librarian Jennifer Littlefield encourages the public to stop and browse through books displayed on a variety of bird topics, including:
• “ABC of Birds,” by Roger Troy Peterson: young children will enjoy photographs, paintings, and simple text of different birds for each letter of the alphabet.
• “Birdfeeders, Shelters, and Baths,” by Edward A. Baldwin: over 25 complete step-by-step projects for the weekend woodworker.
• “The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher,” by Robert Burton and Stephen Kress: birdfeeders and bird gardens.
• “The Birds of South Dakota,” by the South Dakota Ornithologists Union.
• “The Birdhouse Book,” by Bruce Woods: how to build fanciful birdhouses and feeders from the purely practical to the absolutely outrageous.

Patience!! When you first start feeding birds, you may have to wait a little while before they start visiting.

Especially during winter, birds are stressed by cold and go to food they already know.  Keep putting food where birds can find it.  Like a new restaurant, word-of-beak will bring in visitors.  Don’t worry if it takes a few days or weeks.  Just set the table.  They will come.

For more information, stop by the Huron Public Library or phone 605-353-8530.

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