For the Birds Radio Program: Feed the Birds

Original Air Date: May 4, 1987

Bird seed is a bit more that tuppence a bag, but Mary Poppins had the right idea. (3:45)

Duration: 3′45″


(“Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins)

Winter is when most people think of feeding birds–the very survival of some individual birds depends upon artificial feeding during the severest cold snaps. In a typical snowy blowy Northland blizzard, not much can cheer a person the way a flock of jolly chickadees or colorful winter finches can. But spring bird feeding brings other unique joys. Winter nights set in before many working people can get home to enjoy their birds–spring days are long enough to watch birds before and after work. Two lovely whistled songs can be heard right in your back yard if you set out sunflower seed in spring. One is the three-note song of the Chickadee. The familiar chickadee-dee-dee call, made by both males and females year-round, has several social functions, but the whistled spring song is usually sung by males only–to declare a territory and to attract a mate.

(Recording of a Chickadee song)

The White-throated Sparrow’s whistled song follows the rhythm pattern “Old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody”–unless you’re north of the border, where it’s interpreted as “Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.”

(Recording of a White-throated Sparrow)

White-throats, along with other migrating sparrows and juncoes, are also fond of grocery-store seed mixtures and of cracked corn.

Grape jelly spooned into a heavy plastic cereal bowl and set on a picnic table, flat feeder, or deck railing can attract catbirds, orioles, and even an occasional warbler. Sugar water in bowls or hummingbird feeders often attracts orioles as well as hummingbirds. Make the mixture of about one-quarter cup sugar to one cup of water. Tying orange halves to a tree or setting them on a picnic table will bring in orioles, starting within the next week or two. When the weather starts getting warm, suet turns rancid quickly, but during a cold snap many birds will appreciate it again. Crows and jays like a few pieces of Purina Cat Chow mixed in with their sunflower seeds, and I always try to keep a few peanuts out for my Blue Jays–this year they’re rewarding me for my peanuts by nesting right in sight of my house.

All in all, the pleasures of attracting birds to your window and of helping them survive the rigors of spring migration are well worth your effort and time.

(Recording of “Feed the Birds.”)

That was Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, this is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”