SEATTLE - When the weather turns cold, wild bird populations in the Northwest have to work hard to find enough food to survive. Washingtonians can help by putting out feeders and keeping them full this winter, and there are probably some good post-Christmas sale prices on feeders.
An estimated 50 million people around the U.S. put out bird feeders this time of year to attract feathered friends to their backyards. They may not realize that a bird's diet must fuel a metabolism that can require up to a whopping 10,000 calories a day, so the food has to not only appeal to the birds, but be nutritious for them as well.
National Wildlife Federation(NWF)
naturalist David Mizejewski recommends a combination of seed and suet. But he says the best way to help wild birds survive the winter lies in what you plant around your property.
"What you want to think about doing, first and foremost, is adding plants to your landscape that have berries, seeds, nuts, and that kind of thing. Those are the foods that the birds are going to be feeding on in the winter."
He says there are some myths to wild bird feeding, like the one that says once you start feeding the birds, you can't stop.
"It is something of a myth that birds will become dependent upon your feeder and that, if you stop feeding once you start, the birds are going to suffer and maybe even die. The research shows that birds really only use feeders as a supplement to the natural foods they find in the landscape."
The National Wildlife Federation
has a Certified Wildlife Habitat program to educate people about how to safely attract birds and other wildlife, even in urban settings. There's an online application to fill out (at www.nwf.org
) and the NWF can certify your yard as wildlife habitat. Businesses, churches and schools can also apply for certification.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also has a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary program and offers advice on design and critter-friendly projects on its "Living with Wildlife" website. The address is wdfw.wa.gov