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Enjoying and appreciating local birds

Posted: Friday, Apr 26th, 2013

Ed Close

We feed a lot of birds at our place here in Evanston. We enjoy them a lot, and they are productive when spring comes and bugs hatch out. If youíre a gardener, feeding birds is a very good thing. All the birds you attract to your garden eat insects when the seed in the feeders runs low. It doesnít cost all that much, and thereís a lot less pesticide use.

I donít like pesticides very much. I use them on a very limited basis. I figure the spraying for mosquitoes is plenty, and I try to find other ways to defend the garden against insect pests. I also donít want to use pesticides because they are indiscriminate and kill beneficial insects as well, especially bees and other pollinators.

We keep a journal of all the species of birds that come to our garden, and especially to our feeders. We have documented the normal sparrows and finches, but weíve also had some unexpected guests. We have a sharp-shinned hawk that comes around from time to time, a red-breasted nuthatch that hangs upside down on everything, a Stellarís jay that likes old hot dog buns, and a red-shafted flicker who likes suet cakes.

The other day, we had our one and only endangered bird thus far, and that was a real treat. A loggerhead shrike visited the garden right outside our front window. It was trying to catch one of the sparrows but, since it is endangered, we left it alone and simply watched it. Feathers flew and suddenly the sparrow flew away with the shrike right behind it. We donít know what happened, but I figure an endangered shrike needs food just like the rest of the birds.

I suggest hanging or raised platform feeders if you want to attract birds to your garden. Seeds and sunflower seeds are both readily available locally, so it isnít a difficult thing to do. It takes a little while before the birds start coming around, but in the winter months it is important they get fed as they burn a lot of calories trying to stay warm. A good bird book will help in identifying the species that come around, and the local bookstore carries them.

At any rate, good luck with it if you decide to try it. Youíll be glad you did when the middle of summer comes and you can sit out in the garden without insects being a big problem.

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