Feed the Birds

Now that we're all trying to figure out how to have fun without driving anywhere, may I suggest a bird feeder? No, it's not a solution to the energy crisis, although I am wondering if there might not be a way to use the copious amount of bird “doo” which has accumulated below my feeder.

Bird feeders come in all shapes, sizes, and methods of hanging so there's probably a perfect bird feeder for your budget and location. Bird seed is now available at the supermarket, in the pet food aisle. There's all kinds but I buy the black oil sunflower seeds which are reputed to attract songbirds.

Bird feeders are the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way to watch real wild life. If you've got little ones who are entranced with dinosaurs, you can explain to them that birds are the living link to those long extinct monsters. And the way the finches fight at my feeder, they put veloceraptors to shame.

I am really sorry that I didn't have one of these when my kids were growing up. As it is, when my daughter came home from the Peace Corps last summer, we really bonded over finches and hairy woodpeckers. We got ridiculously excited over whether we were seeing an oriole or a goldfinch. We accumulated a library of books including the bible of bird watching; Petersons Field Guide to Birds. Peterson's not only has lovely illustrations and all the information you could wish about the birds of your area, they also have a life list which is how true birders keep track of which birds they've seen throughout their lives.

Do you have a couple of competitive children? Have them start competing life lists, posted conveniently close to the window nearest the feeder. Offer a prize to the kid who sees the first Tufted Titmouse or Red-Breasted Nuthatch or whatever cool bird flies through your part of the world. A pair of binoculars is a nice investment, in order to discern those more subtle markings, but not necessary.

Birds don't need humans to feed them, they get along fine on the foods they've eaten for millennia. But children, all of us, need to understand more about these intrepid travelers. It's one thing to see a cute little bird, it's another to learn that your feeder is a brief stop on what may be a 5000 mile journey. Sure, the zoo is a great place to see “wild” animals in their own “habitats” but the finch at your feeder is a truly wild creature. And, filling the feeder is a great chore for your nine-year-old.

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