Black Capped Chickodees are a common bird around the feeder. Photos by Doug Oster
I got an e-mail the other day from my friend Steve Repasky from Burgh Bees. He’s also a wildlife biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Earlier in the day he stopped over unexpectedly while I was filming a Digging with Doug about attracting birds to the garden. It was a news release all about feeding the birds. It talked about the importance of building a habitat to feed the birds as opposed to just throwing out some seed for them to eat.
It went on to say that feeder birds can be easy prey for hawks looking for a quick meal. Five minutes later I was walking in the garden with my camera and I heard some squawking. As I turned around three cardinals were flying right towards me being chased by a Cooper’s Hawk (I think), and the last cardinal was grabbed by the hawk.
This Cooper's Hawk caught a cardinal right in front of me.
I feed the birds for a couple reasons, first I love watching them. Even in cold weather, I’ll go out to my hidden chair behind a couple hemlocks to watch and listen to the birds. There’s something wonderful and calming seeing birds at the feeder. By bringing them into the yard, they will stick around when the weatehr breaks and feast on a variety of insects too.
It was both amazing and sad, but nature can be a cruel mistriss. The hawk sat for a minute over its prize and flew off as I tried to get a better camera angle.
Here are some of the highlights of the PGC release, read the entire thing here-
First a poignant question, “is inviting songbirds – and indirectly, other wildlife – closer to our homes a smart move? Are we compelling wild birds to become more dependent on or unnecessarily comfortable with people? Does feeding birds in winter create health risks for songbirds at a time of unquestioned vulnerability?”
Game commission biologists recommend planting native habitat for the birds, but realize not everyone has a few acres to plant, so yes, feeding the birds is OK.
Be sure the feeder is placed at least 15 feet from a window and close enough to some cover so birds can escape a hawk or cat.
Use a diverse range of foods for the birds, it’s good for them and you’ll attract a wider variety of birds. Black oil sunflower seeds, suet, corn, fruits, peanuts and more will make the birds happy.
If you feed in the winter, continue through the rest of the season. The birds get used to the feeder and make it part of their foraging route.
Keep feeders clean, they can spread diseases to the birds.
You can find Cole’s products locally here.
Below is a video that goes along with the release.