Hungry birds

The birds have been especially hungry this week and more of them are coming to the feeders. They've kept me busy making sure that all the feeders are stocked.

I haven't seen any unusual birds at my feeders this week. (Of course, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s, I haven't actually spent a lot of time outside observing.) I still haven't had any big flocks of White-winged Doves or any of the blackbird family, although I do get small numbers of the doves and the occasional individual Red-winged Blackbird. What I do get is unusually large numbers of my usual visitors.

I had to go into town at mid-day today and when I arrived back home in the middle of the afternoon, as we turned into the driveway, a large flock of perhaps as many as 200 American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins flew up from the black oil sunflower seed feeder near the driveway. Also, these little finches are now hitting the thistle seeds hard! For most of the winter, I could fill my thistle sock feeders and the seeds would last at least a week. Now, I'm filling the socks every day.

Late this afternoon, I went out to my backyard and startled a big flock of Northern Cardinals that were having their dinner at the feeders there. It's not unusual to see large numbers of these birds gathering to feed together at the end of the day, but this was a bigger number than I generally see - maybe twenty or more.

And so it goes all through the roll-call of backyard feeder birds. Their tribe has increased. Maybe they know that February is National Bird-Feeding Month!

Congress first established February as National Bird-Feeding Month back in 1994 on a resolution introduced by Congressman John Porter (R-IL). The first sentence of Porter's resolution proclaimed that this is "one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds." The reason for this difficulty will be clear to anyone who stops to think about it.

Birds typically enter fall and winter with an abundance of wild food provided by Nature, but as the weeks and months roll by, that supply of food is depleted. Finally, by the end of January and beginning of February, most of the food is gone just as we are entering a period when much of the country is experiencing its harshest winter weather. That combination can be a killer for high-energy creatures like birds who require a steady supply of food to keep themselves going. That's when their human friends can really come to the rescue with their backyard feeders.

Backyard bird feeding benefits even those birds who do not come to the feeders, because it reduces competition for the remaining wild food which they depend upon. Moreover, bird feeding is such a popular hobby, engaged in by more than one-third of the adult population of the country, that it has an economic impact as well. Somebody has to raise all those seeds and manufacture the suet cakes and pressed seed cakes, not to mention all those bird feeders and birdbaths. Yes, bird feeding is big business.

So, help the birds at this hungry and difficult time for them, as well as supporting your country's economic recovery. Feed the birds!


  1. My neighbors with bird feeders have said the same thing. This cold weather must increase their appetite. I know it does mine!

  2. It stands to reason that it would, Anonymous. It takes additional calories to keep warm, as well as the necessary calories to keep up their daily activities. This is really the time of year when they can most use our help.


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