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Stokes Beginner's Guide to BirdsEastern Region
By Donald Stokes
Little Brown and CompanyCopyright © 1996 Donald Stokes
All right reserved.
IntroductionFeeding wild birds is one of the most enjoyable, absorbing, and rewarding lifetime hobbies. Not only do you get to see birds up close, which is a real thrill, but you also have the satisfaction of feeding and helping out a wild animal. Feeding and attracting birds is part of a large trend toward turning our backyards into wildlife sanctuaries, peaceful and stress-reducing places that nurture the birds and are havens for us. Humans have probably been feeding birds in some way ever since our early ancestry, for birds are curious and always looking for food.
BIRD FEEDING AS A HOBBY
Various studies have been done on how many Americans feed birds in their own backyards. Most seem to suggest that about 65 million people take part. This includes all levels of involvement with the hobby, from people who only put out a little seed every once in a while to those who have ten or more feeders and go through over 100 pounds of seed a week. There are many ways to participate in bird feeding, and whether you live in urban or rural areas, there are lots of birds to attract. You can feed birds just one kind of seed, or you can offer many types of seed in a wide variety of feeders, as well as offering suet, nuts, fruit, and sugar water. If you are like most people, you will find bird feeding a fun and absorbing hobby, and you will soon get caught up in wanting to attract more species of birds, in greater numbers, more of the time.
WHEN TO FEED BIRDS
Determining when to feed birds is easy. Feed them all year. It will increase your enjoyment, and birds can use our help in every month. Each season has its challenges for the birds, and the seed and other foods that we can offer help them throughout their lives. In fall, many birds are on migration and need extra food to help fuel them on their long journeys. In winter, it is colder and the birds that don't migrate need more calories to keep them warm. In spring, most of the food in the wild, such as all of the seeds and berries, has been eaten during the winter, and new insects are only just beginning to fill the air, so birds-both year-round residents and returning migrants-especially need feeder foods in spring. In summer, birds are raising young, and this takes a lot of effort. Offering food at this time helps parents feed themselves easily so they can spend more time looking for food to feed their young. Later, the parents may bring their young to the feeder, where the young eventually learn to feed themselves.
WHY FEED BIRDS?
There are so many good reasons to feed wild birds. One is that with every new building and road, we humans are taking away habitat that produces seeds, berries, and insects that the birds need to survive. Attracting birds by providing sources of food and bird-friendly habitat can help offset in small measure some of these losses of habitats and the foods they produce.
Feeding the birds is extremely educational. It is a great introduction to the natural world for all ages. It brings birds up close so they can be seen in all their beauty; it teaches what birds like to eat, how they feed, and what they need for survival; and it's an easy way to begin learning to identify birds. It can be a wonderful family activity, and a way for parents or grandparents to introduce children to nature and the world of birds.
Bird feeding is also very relaxing and inspirational. It brings joy to all ages, keeps older people in touch with nature and life, and gives young people an awareness of the greater natural world of which they are a part. Watching birds outside a home or office window can do wonders to reduce stress and is a boon to a healthier outlook on life.
And finally, feeding the birds can give you a strong sense of well-being, because you are doing something positive for the world. It is almost magical when you put out feeders and the birds actually come; you have met their needs and they are responding. In addition to setting up feeders, creating good varied habitats in our own backyards provides the birds with essential natural sources of food and nesting places. Attracting birds is a thrilling interaction with the natural world and a way to exercise the best of our nurturing instincts as humans for the life around us. It can also inspire us to become more involved with wildlife conservation on a larger scale.
We hope this introduction to the hobby of bird feeding will start you out on a lifelong activity that enriches your world and benefits the lives of birds.
Excerpted from Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds by Donald Stokes Copyright © 1996 by Donald Stokes. Excerpted by permission.
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