🐦 Wild Bird Watchers Bulletin: February 2021 Edition

February has been recognized as National Bird Feeding month since 1994. It all started when a U.S Congressman named John Porter recognized the hardships wild birds face at this time of year when winter can be at its worst. He encouraged people to put out food, water, and shelter to make their lives a little easier. He stated, “Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults. Bird feeding provides a needed break from today’s frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds — nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one’s day going on a tranquil note.”

This past year, many people joined in on the hobby as they were spending more time at home and in the backyard. To those who have been long-time birders, it is no secret as to why feeding the birds has always been the second biggest hobby in North America (gardening is number one!). The lively activity that birds bring to our yards transfers into our own spirit. The joy of seeing many different species enjoying the offerings we put into our feeders is rewarding and exciting. The thrill of seeing something unusual or rare only adds to the joy of it all.

Winter Update

This mild winter has made for varied reports of what people are seeing in their yards. Some are reporting feeders being quieter that normal yet others are raving about the activity. When weather is milder many birds will forage naturally and not visit feeders as much as we may like. Some of the exciting reports include very good number of Pine and Evening grosbeaks outside the city limits. Within the city, many are seeing White-winged and Red crossbills which are absolutely beautiful and very exciting to see. They enjoy black oil sunflower seeds, Nyjer seed and even shelled sunflower in Window Feeders! These amazing finches have a beak that is crisscrossed and interestingly, White-winged Crossbills with lower mandibles crossing to the right are approximately three times more common than those with lower mandibles crossing to the left! Their diet is quite varied eating many insects in summer like spruce budworm and coneworm along with ants and spiders. They are most noted for eating the seeds from pine cones from spruce and tamarack trees, a task their bills were specially designed for!

There have been shortages in some seed supplies as the growing season of 2020 was very dry and hot so certain crops were not as plentiful as expected. The hardest hit appears to be millet. Supplies are limited and the demand for Hulled Millet for both the human and wild bird industries has affected prices. Hulled millet is widely used in Ancient Grain type breads and cereal products. We even have customers who purchase our quality Hulled Millet to prepare their own cereals and breads at home!

A single White-Winged Crossbill will eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds each day! The male solely cares for the young after fledging as it is believed the female moves on to another partner to continue breeding. This is called ‘serial polyandry’.