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Winter is for the Birds

The winter months can be a dreary time in Northwest Arkansas, but backyard birders know that they can brighten the months considerably by feeding the birds.  While many of the more colorful birds have flown south for the winter, you can still see a large variety including purple martins, chickadees, bluebirds, cardinals, blue jays and more. So, read ahead for tips on caring for our feathered friends and don’t forget your binoculars!

Feeding and Watering

If you’ve been wanting to start bird watching but thought you couldn’t because you have no yard, think again.  No matter if you have a balcony, a patio or just a window, there are feeders that are perfect for you to bring little birdie friends into view.  Look online or shop locally at Chewy.com, Wild Birds Unlimited, Petco, Petsmart, and Amazon.

Black oiled sunflowers are all-purpose and will attract sparrows, finches and chickadees as well as cardinals. A tip I learned from a client is to buy bird seed that is coated in chili powder.  It doesn’t bother birds at all but squirrels can’t stand it! You should put your feeder in a place next to a shrub, potted plant, or something else that gives the birds a little cover. 

Don’t forget to give them water and change it daily.  In the winter, it will obviously freeze.  You can either purchase a self-warming bird bath or make your own and simply change the water often.  An easy and inexpensive summer bird bath is a simple terra cotta pot turned upside down with the matching saucer glued on top. What’s even better about a bird bath is that if you add rocks and pebbles that are not completely submerged, your bird bath will also attract butterflies and bees in the spring and summer.  I can personally attest to this, and though my yard has only a few flowers, every summer I get to watch butterflies and bumble bees playing in my birdbath like a bunch of children in a wading pool!

And don’t forget your hummingbirds.  Many people don’t realize that not all hummingbirds leave in the winter.  These little guys are hungry because there are no flowers and most of us bring in our feeders over the winter.  Even the birds that do migrate need to have a stopping place to fuel up on their way south.  Think of your winter hummingbird feeder as the Howard Johnson for birds.  Make a simple hummingbird nectar with 1 part sugar, 4 parts water and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves.  Don’t add red dye; it is bad for them.  Most hummingbird feeders are colorful and that is enough to attract them.  Fill your feeder after the nectar cools and leave the rest in a covered container in your refrigerator. Clean it occasionally, especially in the summer months, as they can get moldy.

Bird Crafts

Forgive me for using the expression “kill two birds with one stone” but making your own feeders gives you both a craft to enjoy making and an easily and cheaply replaced bird feeder.  

The simplest one I know is to melt a few tablespoons of any nut butter and roll a pinecone around until it’s coated.  Then roll it around in birdseed and hang it from a tree, eave, or railing.  If you’re out of peanut butter, then shortening or lard is fine.  Here is another easy and cheap bird feeder idea:    https://www.theresourcefulmama.com/toilet-paper-roll-bird-feeders/   Be careful on this one though.  If your patio is suddenly covered by toilet paper roll bird feeders, your neighbors might suspect that you were one of the hoarders!

Look on Pinterest from more craft ideas. You can download the Pinterest App or go to the website at www.pinterest.com.  

Websites for Birders

The internet is full of great birding websites.  Check out www.audubon.org for great articles about conservation and how you can help, as well as what plants to use to attract various birds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology at https://www.birds.cornell.edu  has tips to show you how you can help birds, bird cams to watch and pretty much any information you would like to find about birds in our area and around the world. There is a section that matches feeders and seeds with the birds who will eat them.  They even have developed an app that I use called the Merlin Bird Id App.  I love this because my birding knowledge is minimal, and I’m thrilled when I hear a birdsong and no longer have to wonder what kind of bird is singing.

Outings

Beaver Lake has an eagle watch tour that you can book in the winter months.  Go to www.arkansasstateparks.com for more information.  And if you are needing to get out of the house but need to socially distance yourself, Lake Fayetteville has a bird blind that gives you a little shelter and allows you to watch blue herons, egrets and green herons undetected.  You will also see all kinds of ducks.

I hope that you learned a few good tips here.  I’ve included more websites below for more information.

www.Youtube.com  type “birds” in the search icon (the magnifying glass)

www.birdwatchingdaily.com

www.birdwatching.com