Celebration of Spring 2003

     When the fickle winds of March finally subside, and April’s showers coax new growth from the cold ground of winter, the songs of spring birds return like a promise. First the Chickadee, then the Robin. One by one the birds of summer begin to return adding their voices to the morning chorus. We stop and listen to a new song, like a memory from the past, we know we have it heard before. A Red-winged Blackbird perched on a Cattail, then a Meadowlark singing from a fence post in a field, Bluebirds in the old Apple tree. Each new voice is an affirmation of the coming spring. Finally in May, the trees are alive with recent arrivals all proclaiming their return. The variety, the colour, and the sound are the celebration of spring.
     Spring is the greatest time of need for our feathered friends. But many people stop feeding birds in their backyards when the snow disappears. The dried fruits and wild seeds of fall have been picked clean by winter birds. New shoots, leaves and insects are slow to develop in the cool months of April and May. Food resources are stretched thin by all the new arrivals. The birds have survived without our handouts for eons, but for people who wish to enjoy the sights and sounds of spring this is the most exciting time to maintain backyard feeding stations.
     Spring migrants appreciate seed offered in feeders. Especially whole sunflower, hulled sunflower chips, and Nyjer thistle. Providing seed in a number of feeder styles will attract a greater variety of birds. Platform feeders placed low to the ground will attract native sparrows, Towhees, Doves and Thrashers. Hanging tube feeders are used by members of the finch family along with Chickadees, and Indigo Buntings. Traditional bin style and covered fly thru feeders mounted on a pole or deck are preferred by Jays, Cardinals, and Grosbeaks. Woodpeckers love suet! Suet provides lots of calories and is an important food source throughout the year. Butcher’s suet tends to get rancid in warm weather so try switching to a commercial, no-melt suet dough. Nuts presented in a special peanut feeder can be substituted for suet, eliminating the mess while still providing the fast food calories!
     Many spring and summer songbirds are not seed eaters. They dine on insects, fruits, sap from trees and the nectar of flowers. These are some of the most colourful and dynamic birds of the backyard! Warblers, Hummingbirds and Orioles relish sugar water provided in nectar feeders. Many birds, most notably the Orioles, favor grape jelly offered in special jelly feeders. Catbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and many woodpecker species are also fond of sweet offerings. For insects, try hanging a fine mesh bag of over ripe bananas near a nectar feeder. The rotting fruit will attract a colony of tiny fruit flies perfect for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and migrating warblers. Other birds prefer larger insect treats. Mealworms are available at pet and specialty wild bird stores. The larva of a small black beetle, mealworms are raised on grain products and are really very clean. Though many people are squeamish about them, the birds have voted them number one! In fact, the DNR reports that in Minnesota more species of birds prefer live mealworms than sunflower seeds. Among the biggest fans of these protein packed snacks are Bluebirds, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Thrashers, Warblers, Vireos and Tanagers. Most of these birds will never come to a seed feeder but you can get their attention with a little wiggle this spring!

Kelly Larson
Northern Flights Wild Bird Store
Bemidji, Minnesota 218-444-3022