DEER LAKE — Six chickadees, three blue jays, one woodpecker, they all go on the list.
Deer Lake resident Bill King is so serious about bird feeding that he participates in a national survey called Project Feeder Watch.
The winter bird monitoring project’s volunteers keep track of the types of birds that are visiting their feeders and writes them down in a ledger, to be sent off to a main research centre that monitors bird activity across North America.
King has several feeders, one of which even feeds the birds peanut butter. The birds are so used to people that they’ll even eat out of King’s hand.
“Birds need our help in winter,” he said. “And if you watch them long enough you actually get to know them and their habits, they’re great to have around.”
With the imminent approach of winter, residents aren’t just installing winter tires and digging out the mittens.
Backyard bird feeders are springing up everywhere to help out our fine-feathered friends through the cold, snowy season.
Conventional wisdom states that during the winter it’s harder for birds to find food when snow covers everything, hence the need for the feeders.
But it isn’t just birds that benefit from the free meal. For John Wellon is mutually beneficial.
“It’s very relaxing, they’re fun to watch ... it’s like a television show,” said Wellon of Deer Lake. Wellon has several feeders in his backyard, with seeds and suet. He even has a solar feeder that glows at night, although he admits he isn’t sure how birds would benefit from the light, as they, like humans, sleep at night.
Wellon said he’s been putting out the feeders for several years. He buys suet at a dollar store and seeds from a store in Corner Brook, and has seen a lot of different birds visit his backyard.
“I’ve always respected animals and nature, this is something I love doing,” said the retired Transport Canada worker. “My grandson comes over and watches from the window, the birds are just fun to have around, he gets a lot of enjoyment out of them. We all do.”
Wellon has a cat which wanders around, which he said doesn’t seem to go after the birds, but on Wednesday of this week there was another cat skulking around his frontyard feeder. He said the feeders should be installed high enough that predators can’t get to them.
Both bird enthusiasts said it can cost a lot to feed birds all winter, with birds eating a full feeder in a half-day. They say dollar stores sometimes have excellent deals, and other stores do have cheaper generic brands of seed.
They also said if you start feeding wild birds, you shouldn’t stop, especially if there is a lot of snow on the ground. It’s a statement that Memorial University botanical garden environmental educator Christine Byers agrees with completely.
“They get dependent on it, if you start doing it and stop all of a sudden the birds will go to your neighbour’s house to look for other sources, but it can put a strain on them,” she said. “Seed bells are great if you go away on vacation.”
Byers said suet is very good for the birds because it’s a high energy, high-protein substance that the birds need this time of year. She stressed that it shouldn’t be suet from your kitchen, as that could pass on contaminants.
Byers also said the botanical garden also doesn’t recommend a seed product with corn. She said corn may attract rats and other unwanted pests.
Speaking of pests, some see pigeons as unwanted. There are several guesses as to how pigeons got to Newfoundland but in any case, they do stalk the ground below the feeders. Byers suggested making sure there is no human food near the area for them and seagulls.
Anyone who would like to take part in Project Feeder Watch can visit the Bird Studies Canada website at www.bsc-eoc.org and click on the Project Feeder Watch button, or search for the project on Facebook.