Bird feeding is good for us | Don't Miss This | washtimesherald.com – Washington Times Herald


Clear to partly cloudy. Low around 45F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph..
Clear to partly cloudy. Low around 45F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: November 8, 2022 @ 10:35 pm

There are contrasting views on whether feeding birds is a net benefit or detriment.
It can help them survive during migration and harsh winters, but the congregating birds can spread disease.
How come nothing can be simple and straightforward?
But birds have a lot bigger problems, according to the latest, mostly dire “U.S. State of Birds” report.
Good or not, we, like many others, are putting our bird feeders out for the winter season. It doesn’t take long for the first nuthatches, chickadees, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, northern flickers, cardinals and juncos to begin darting in and out for some thistle, sunflower and millet seeds, cracked corn and peanuts.
Having a steady stream of birds outside the picture window is a simple and satisfying way to make a long winter more enjoyable.
While it takes a few days for the birds to rediscover the feeders in front of the house, the squirrels sense them quickly.
My battle with squirrels has been akin to the Hundred Years’ War of the Middle Ages — something that won’t end in a lifetime.
Friends who live in the country often have few squirrels around. Our lower North Mankato neighborhood swarms with them. It doesn’t help that we also feed corn cobs to the squirrels, attracting even more to the front yard and nearby feeders.
You have to give it to them for persistence. They sit and study the situation. If they are blocked by a cone coming up the pipe to the feeder, they go up high in branches and seem to calculate the risk of dropping or leaping atop feeders.
There are a host of squirrel-proof bird feeders that do a pretty good job of keeping them out of the seed. But “squirrel-proof” is the ultimate misnomer.
While you can still draw a variety of birds to your feeders, their numbers continue to dwindle.
Years ago you would see massive swarms of blackbirds doing their magical acrobats above corn fields, today the flocks are fewer and smaller.
Seeing hundreds, or thousands, of blackbirds fly in unison is mesmerizing and their ability to do it is called “murmuration.” Scientists have found that each bird coordinates its movements with six or seven of its closest neighbors in the flock, but the coordinated flight of thousands of birds remains something of a mystery.
The new “U.S. State of the Birds” report that came out last week has a little good news but a dire warning. Half the country’s bird species continue to decline and nearly 200 may soon become endangered.
Minnesota has been particularly susceptible to bird decline as its western grasslands and other habitats in the state continue to decrease. More agriculturalization and urbanization eats away at habitat. and pesticide use affects seeds birds eat, leading to bird weight loss.
The state of birds studies show that North America has lost almost 30% of its bird population, from about 12 billion birds to about 9 billion.
There is some hopeful news, though. Wetland restoration has aided a rebound in waterfowl. Conservation groups have been focusing on restoration along the Mississippi River as most birds migrate through that area.
Individually, we can do our part to help. Planting native plants in the yard offer a good food source. Keeping cats indoors saves birds.
Putting out some feeders, whether it does a lot of good or not for the birds, does much good for us. And seeing all of the different species coming to the feeders makes us appreciate them more — a good motivator for doing what we can to help them.
Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-720-1300.

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