Thursday, February 5, 2009

Do Try This At Home


Here's an easy way for your little one--and bigger kids, too--to get an up-close look at birds: Add at bird feeder to your yard. Among the species that frequent feeders in the LA area are house finches (pictured above), lesser goldfinches, mourning doves (they'll probably handg out on ground below the feeder and catch the spill), house sparrows (these are not native), scrub jays, and--if you're lucky--banded-tail pigeons (no, not the sidewalk pests, lovely native doves).

There's no real trick, but here are my tips:
  • Buy a long feeder like the one above. I've had squirrels breach every kind of bird feeder except this one. Yes, I tried the kind where the doors slam shut if a heavier critter perches there. The little gymnasts just hung from their back legs and reached their paws in without tripping it. This feeder is simply too long for them to reach from the branch to the opening. Of course, you need to hang it away from other branches. Mind you, I don't have a problem with the squirrels, but they gobble up my seed budget fast.
  • Hang the feeder on a limb that reaches over a flower bed, not your lawn. That way most bird poop stays away from where kids play.
  • Fill your feeder with 100% black sunflower seeds. The little ones. You can buy them at OSH. Sure, you can use the other stuff, but you will probably end up with weeds in your yard. These little sunflower seeds are nutritious, and the only accidental plant you get is a sunflower.
  • Clean your feeders occasionally to prevent the spread of disease from one bird to another. The same goes for bird baths.
  • If possible, hang your feeder where your kid can watch from an indoor window, for closer viewing.
  • Add a bird bath. Put it where your child won't play in it. Make sure it is cleaned and emptied regularly, in part, to prevent mosquitos breading there in warm months. West Nile virus is still a threat. Still, unless you are constantly topping it off, in the summer, a shallow bird bath will likely dry up before mosquitoes can hatch. 
If you want to do more for birds, add native plants to your yard. Visit the Theodore Payne Foundation to buy them. Ask for their list of bird-attracting plants. 

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