It’s that time of year again, when we humans rush about, stress out and generally over do all things related to the Holidays. As I dwell on this annual madness, I am reminded of the Bible verse that begins, “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns…” All birds care about in this first month of winter is finding enough food and shelter to survive the long, dark, sometimes bitterly cold nights. I suppose we could say that they are living with a different kind of stress and non-stop activity, but it is not self-imposed.
I would suggest that everyone take a breath and either look out your windows, or actually go outside and see just what the birds are up to. You will not hear much singing at this time of year – that is reserved for the springtime courtship rituals, but they will be calling to one another or shrieking warnings to others in their neighborhood. In our region, the Black-capped Chickadees, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, White-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays, American Crows, Mourning Doves, and three species of Woodpeckers will be keeping up an ongoing conversation with one another. It’s hard to describe these sounds, but they include, ‘loud metallic chips (Cardinals) or high pitched see see see calls (Black-capped Chickadee); loud peeks (many Woodpeckers); nasally ank-anks (White-breasted Nuthatch); and a harsh whistled jay-jay call (Blue Jays). I might suggest you go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology because there you can find each species of bird and a recording of their songs and calls. Maybe you can come up with a better way of describing them.
Back in the human realm, one of the more challenging and sometimes frustrating tasks is finding ‘just’ the right present for a friend or relative. More and more Americans are foregoing giving ‘things’ to one another in exchange for ‘experiences’. We all have too much STUFF in our lives and homes and appreciate the chance to go out and experience something new or intriguing. This includes bird watching and bird feeding. According to a recent survey done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it was estimated that more than 45 million people watch birds either around their home or away, contributing a total of more than $75 billion to the U.S. economy in the process. Chances are good you already know people who engage in this hobby by feeding birds around their home. A gift for these folks is simple – Bird Food. If they are like us, they feed the birds year-round and would greatly appreciate a supply of birdseed.
There are lots of different kinds to choose from based on what each bird prefers. You can’t go wrong with hulled sunflower seeds, which are beloved by almost all birds. But if you want to mix it up a bit, there is safflower seed for Cardinals or Peanuts for the woodpeckers. Whatever you choose to give, consider it a gift that gives twice – once to the humans who enjoy feeding the birds and secondly (maybe most important) to the birds who receive an extra boost through the winter months by these nutritious and varied foods. As they say, this is a ‘Win-Win’ opportunity.
By Kate Crowley