More than 82 million Americans feed wild birds. This isn't a new phenomenon. Wild bird feeders and birdbaths date back to ancient Egypt and other cultures. A 120-year history of American bird feeding is documented in the new book "Feeding Wild Birds in America" by Paul Baicich, Margaret Barker and Carrol Henderson. This book gives a history of bird feeding and conservation that any bird watcher would enjoy.
For instance, there are many aspects of bird feeding that are unknown or overlooked. First, someone has to grow the seeds. Many current birdseed companies are descendants of farmers that once grew bird food for the U.S. Army. In WWII, the Army had tens of thousands of carrier pigeons. American farmers supplied the seeds to feed them, but after the war the demand dropped off. Promoting backyard bird feeding fit in with the rise of a conservation ethic that saw more people interested in wild birds.
Second, different types of bird feeders were invented by returning servicemen who had been mechanics during the war. Veteran Gil Dunn started the Duncraft Wild Bird Superstore that is still making popular bird feeders.
If a person on your shopping list enjoys feeding birds, you can't go wrong getting them another feeder. There are three basic types, a tube feeder, a hopper feeder and a suet feeder. Each feeder type can hold a different kind of food and will attract different kinds of birds.
Easy cleaning may be the most important feature to look for in a bird feeder. If it isn't easy to clean, it won't get done, and then the feeder will clog up and turn moldy. Tube feeders should have a base that quickly unscrews or snaps off. I prefer the tube feeders with a larger diameter, because I can get my hand and a brush inside them. They also stay fuller longer. A full feeder is good for the birds and easier for me. The lid of a hopper feeder should come off so the feeder can be cleaned. Many plastic and acrylic feeders can be washed in a dishwasher.
The best birdseed you can get is from Cole's. First, the company screens the seed more thoroughly than most other birdseed companies. This means fewer sticks and stones in the feeder for you to clean out. Maybe the best thing the company does is fill its specially designed birdseed bags with nitrogen gas. Without oxygen, the birdseed can't get moldy, and no insects can live in the bag. When you open the bag, the seed is fresh and insect-free.
Probably the best way to attract birds to any landscape is through the addition of fresh water. Birds not only need to drink water ever day; they need to take baths in the winter. Clean feathers will repel snow and ice better and thus keep the bird warmer.
When natural bodies of water are frozen, a heated birdbath will attract a lot of birds. The birdbaths are not heated to keep the water warm, just to keep the water above freezing. Heated birdbaths and heaters for existing birdbaths are available. If your local store doesn't have heated birdbaths, check out the Duncraft website for baths and feeders from this historic bird feeder company.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.