For the Birds Radio Program: Gifts for the Birds, Part I
One of the desires of gift-giving is to acknowledge how much our dear ones mean to us. Birds bring human lives food, sport, fun, song, and beauty, and embody our dreams of flight, freedom, and carefree joy. Small wonder that even people who don’t normally feed birds often set out a suet ball or other treat for those treasured backyard birds at Christmastime.
Setting out suet and seed helps birds we can see through our windows, from chickadees and cardinals to nuthatches and woodpeckers. Sunflower is the single best kind of birdseed for attracting a wide variety of northland birds. Suet is another popular food, providing 100 percent pure, unadulterated fat, from which our birds can derive the energy they need for keeping warm on frozen days and even longer, more frozen nights. Mealworms, berries and fruits, peanuts and peanut butter, and even vegetable shortening are all wonderful gifts that your backyard birds will appreciate. A great source of information about feeding birds is Carrol Henderson’s excellent birds, Wild about Birds: The DNR Birdfeeding Guide.
But bird food is only one of a great many gifts we could bestow on the birds we treasure. Some presents that are truly for the birds cost money: a gift membership for a friend or yourself in an organization such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Bird Conservancy, Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union, International Crane Foundation, or other group committed to studying and providing education about birds can give someone you love an interesting magazine to read while providing valuable funds for research and conservation efforts that may help a wide variety of birds. The Nature Conservancy uses contributions to purchase essential habitat. Some of my favorite birding places in the country are operated by The Nature Conservancy, and even Hawk Ridge in Duluth was purchased by Duluth Audubon Society thanks to generous funding by The Nature Conservancy.
Other gifts for the birds are cheaper—some will even save you money. This week we’ll focus on a host of gifts that are absolutely free that will help birds at Christmastime and year-round. All week we’ll be talking about gifts for the birds. Unfortunately, this time of year we’re bombarded by messages to buy, buy, buy. Except for a few acquisitive crows and jays, birds aren’t the least bit materialistic, so for the rest of the week, every gift idea I give for the birds will be absolutely free—some will even save you money. And I promise not to suggest four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, or a partridge in a pear tree.