February was designated National Bird Feeding Month on February 23, 1994 by Congressman John Porter. This is a portion of what he had to say,  ‘‘I would like to recognize February, one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds, as National Bird-Feeding Month. During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help wild birds survive. This assistance benefits the environment by supplementing the wild bird’s natural diet of weed seeds and insects. Currently, one-third of the US adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards.

“In addition, Mr. Speaker, backyard bird-feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults. Bird-feeding provides a needed break from today’s frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds — nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one’s day going on a tranquil note.”

If you have found this website, you are either new to the hobby of feeding wild birds or you are a long time practitioner and recognize that watching a variety of birds can improve your mood. Study after study shows the positive benefits of interacting with the natural world and birds are a big and visible part of that world.

Each year there is a theme for the month. This year it is “Winter Comforts — Feed the Birds and Keep Them Happy and Healthy”.  Those of us who live in the northern states realize just by looking out our windows that wild food is  hard to come by when there is snow on the ground and the trees are leafless. But even those who live in the southern half of the country occasionally suffer from winter storms that bring freezing rain, sleet and snow. These can be especially dangerous conditions for birds (and people). While birds may be able to find some natural sources of food in the southern states during the winter, providing wild bird seed can be a good supplement, plus it brings them into closer proximity.

Peanuts in the shell can be placed on platform feeders, but shelled peanuts are best 'served' in a specialized feeder - like this one.

Peanuts in the shell can be placed on platform feeders, but shelled peanuts are best ‘served’ in a specialized feeder – like this one.

There are an assortment of types of bird seed available and they can satisfy the tastes of a variety of birds.  If you’ve always provided black sunflower seeds, you might want to try the shelled sunflower seeds which makes for a less messy area around your feeder.   Or maybe you want to try Peanuts which are popular with a number of species.

This Tufted Titmouse looks like its eyes are bigger than its stomach

This Tufted Titmouse looks like its eyes are bigger than its stomach

Again, you can choose in the shell or shelled. There are several other options and varieties available, so take a look and maybe try something new for the New Year. Make your selection of recommended wild bird food and salute the birds with a ‘Bon Appetit’.

There are some things you should not feed to the birds and they are;

Spoiled or stale seed — be sure to replace the food often. Damp seed gets moldy and inedible.

Bread — provides very little nourishment to birds.

Potato chips — these processed and salty snacks are unhealthy for birds.

Popcorn — Again, salt is bad for them as are the processed oils used for popping.

Sweets — Baked goods and candy are not good because of all the sugar and processed ingredients.

There are other things you can do to increase the number and types of birds that come to your yard. You can add another feeder or a heated birdbath. You can participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count held on Feb. 18-21. Maybe you will see a type of bird you don’t recognize and you can get out the field guide and try to ID it; or start a birding journal that you keep nearby to record species and different behaviors you observe.

By Kate Crowley