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For the birds

Posted January 23, 2013 in Community Featured, Boone
Woodpeckers large and small share a tree trunk on a winter’s day.

Woodpeckers large and small share a tree trunk on a winter’s day.

Take a drive down just about any street in Boone these days, and one will notice that hundreds of backyard diners have opened for the season.

These aren’t fancy, sit-down places, but rather fast food establishments where the patrons swoop in with barely a notice, devour their food and speed away almost as fast as they came. Delighted is the diner owner who happens to be at the window at just the right time to catch these fanciful customers in flight.

Yep, ’tis the season for one and all to keep backyard bird feeders well stocked. After a few easy winters, the deep, pre-Christmas snow cover has sent nature’s feathered friends depending more than ever on the kindness of strangers for their winter bounty.

The need for proper nutrition this time of year is great, as noted in winter bird-feeding publications available from Iowa State University Extension. Birds who spend the winter in Iowa require a very high metabolic rate in order to stay warm and healthy as temperatures sink and food becomes scarce.

The petite chickadees and nuthatches, Extension notes, eat almost constantly in order to make it through the winter. Larger birds, such as blue jays, store acorns, but still need a plentiful supply throughout the winter months.

To attract more birds, Extension and other birding sources recommend establishing a variety of feeders and platforms at differing heights. The feeders should be sheltered from wind and noise that may easily frighten the birds away. Make it a peaceful retreat, and the birds will return often.

To provide the best nutrition — and therefore attract the greatest variety of birds — Extension recommends purchasing feed with a high proportion of black (oil type) sunflower seeds, generally at least 50 percent. Another alternative is buying sunflower seed in bulk and adding to mixtures.

Jams and jellies are fun to put out, but these are more of a “dessert” item and may not always give the nutrition necessary to help birds survive the harsh winter conditions. Keep these in dessert-portion sizes and feed primarily with high protein foods to keep birds coming back all winter long.

Even peanut butter spread over rough tree bark makes a great breakfast for winter birds. Sprinkle some birdseed, or even cracked peanuts with it, and it makes for a tasty and nutritious treat.

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