I hope everyone is enjoying their bird feeders as much as I am this winter. What a silly remark—of course you are! Of everyone I've met who feeds the birds, they all do it for the same reason: the pure enjoyment of having feathered friends near. Watching wild birds as they move about and listening to their lovely songs awakens the attentive observer to their own natural, wild spirit. The birds are a daily reminder of our roots, our grounding in the earth's natural cycles.
All wild birds and animals are welcome at my feeders. They are like my winter "family," helping me get through the otherwise dark and quiet days until spring. I go through more seed than the average bird fan, because I provide extra food fore the more aggressive feeders like squirrels, blue jays, even a couple of turkeys. At night, a few deer stop in and clean up what's left on the ground. I never see any seed wasted.
Some people don't like it when the bird seed they put out is gobbled down by hungry squirrels. Or, maybe a dozen Blue jays fly away with all the sunflower seeds in less than half a hour. The gray, fox, and flying squirrels usually feed only until their hunger is satisfied, but Blue jays will stow 30 to 80 seeds in their crops, fly off to hide them, and return over and over again. Some people call them greedy, but I know that's just how the Blue jays have learned to survive.
A chickadee visiting the feeder will try to pick up 2 or 3 sunflower seeds at once. He is only able to open one seed at a time, so he usually drops the rest. He may or may not remember to retrieve the fallen seed, but it's no loss; if he doesn't, a fat little meadow vole dashes out from under the snow-covered grass and snatches them up before returning to her hiding place.
Sometimes a single woodpecker will stand on a platform feeder and, with his bill, begin to flick seeds off onto the ground. The woodpecker is simply sorting through the hulls in search of a seed that does not need to be opened. The seed that he flicks to the ground is not wasted; ground-feeding birds gather below, appreciative of the dropped morsels the woodpecker is providing. A cottontail rabbit may also venture out from his hiding place under a nearby brush pile. He keeps his pink nose to the ground, busily nibbling up tiny pieces of cracked corn.
At night, a deer mouse comes to claim whatever seed is left. He too likes to store seed for another day, and will cache it away in a secret nook.
There's a lot going on outside that is related to feeding the birds in winter. The more you watch, the more you will learn about each animal's place in the natural surroundings. You will see that some birds have more fear, while others may be tolerant enough to land in your hand.
Several times this winter I've watched the feeder birds dash away in a single flock, when a swift flying hawk darts through the yard, on the hunt for a feathery breakfast. The Blue jays often sound the first alarm when danger is near, thus earning their keep as seed hoarders.
Feeding the birds is a give and take. You give the birds a free meal, and in return, they give you sweet songs, joy, and food for thought.
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