Feeder Watch, by Jeff Rugg

It’s that time of year again: the weather is getting colder and it’s time to start preparing for winter. As our gardens prepare to go dormant for the winter, we can think of the joy that bird feeding will bring. Fall is a good time to wash feeders and stock up on seeds.

There are some common questions and myths about bird feeding. First, birds will not become dependent on your feeder for a food source and will not die if you do not fill it while you are away for a week or two. Even when eating at feeders, birds consume many other natural food sources every day. Feeders help some birds find a reliable source of food during heavy snowfall or ice storms, so you may want to ask someone to keep it full when you are not available.

Uncooked rice does not expand in the bird’s stomach or kill it. Many species of birds eat rice and other grains in the fields where they grow and are not injured. Peanut butter doesn’t stick to the bird’s throat or choke it. You can mix cornmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal, or birdseed with the peanut butter to make it less sticky if you want. Mixing vegetable shortening and peanut butter in a ratio of about 50-50, then adding cornmeal or birdseed makes a very appetizing and inexpensive tallow substitute that many birds love.

A bird’s legs will not stick to a metal bird feeder perch. Birds do not have sweat glands in their legs, which are covered with scales made of materials like your fingernails. Just think of all the metal fences and phone wires they sit on all day that they don’t stick to.

This is also the time of year when the people who feed the birds can join the 15,000 other people who are part of the largest and oldest citizen science project. For 34 years, the FeederWatch project has been managed by the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. This is a winter survey of birds that visit backyard feeders, nature centers and other places in North America. FeederWatch volunteers periodically count the number of each species they see at their feeders from November through April. The project is helping scientists track winter bird population movements and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.

All you have to do is count all the birds in your garden at once, then report the numbers to the lab. You don’t even need a feeder to count and you can count on your own schedule. The data collected shows which species of birds visit the landscapes at thousands of places across the continent each winter. The data also indicates how many individuals of each species are observed. This information can be used to measure changes in the distribution and abundance of bird species over time.

Learn more about the project at feederwatch.org, where you can see maps, trend charts, and other results generated from FeederWatch data. FeederWatchers receive a research kit that includes: the FeederWatch manual, a guide to feeding birds; a color identification poster for common feeding birds; a calendar with photographs taken by the participants; and paper data forms and / or access to the online data entry system.

As the lab is a non-profit organization, an annual participation fee of $ 18 ($ 15 for members of the ornithology lab) covers your material and newsletter subscription, staff support, staff support, website and data analysis. Visit the website or call (800) 843-2473 (BIRD).

Email your questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To learn more about Jeff Rugg and read articles from other Creators Syndicate authors and designers, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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