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Feeding the birds mutually beneficial
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An Anna's hummingbird drinks from a backyard feeder. - photo by Photo by Oly Fruge

February is National Bird-Feeding Month. In her article Feb. 7 article in the Journal, Dr. E. Kirsten Peters concludes that feeding birds in winter is beneficial for the birds. I agree. However, it can also be a real blessing for those who do the feeding.

                While sick with a nasty virus recently, about the only pleasure my husband Oly and I had was watching the birds at our feeders.

                On sunny afternoons we would park ourselves in chairs out front, a few yards from our crepe myrtle tree. From there we could see our resident male Anna's hummer drinking nectar from "his" feeder. Glimpses of this tiny bird's rosy red gorget always bring a little joy.

                We saw a lot of finches, too. Lesser goldfinches prefer to eat nyjer seeds from our nylon mesh feeder. Also known as green-backed goldfinches, the males of this species have bright yellow tummies year round. My niece Ali calls them " flying lemons." They are cute little birds!   

                The larger house finches love the black oil sunflower seeds we put in another feeder. The males have red heads and chests — the females are brown and striped.

                And although American goldfinches like nyjer seed, recently we have seen them eating a lot of sunflower seeds with the house finches. In winter American goldfinches are not brightly colored. They are a little bigger than the Lessers and their black and white wingbars are more striking.

                One day we also saw four Pine Siskins feeding with the goldfinches. Siskins are striped, reminding me of female house finches, but they are goldfinch size. This was very cool, as we had not seen these in our yard for several years. They are "irruptive" —  which means you never know where or when they might show up.

                Also irruptive are red-breasted Nuthatches. Last winter a pair of these adorable little birds entertained us for months. This year? Nope. Nary a one.

                I haven't even mentioned the birds that eat the seeds and nuts we put on the ground: sparrows, juncos, doves, scrubjays, magpies, mockingbirds, ducks. (Yes, we put out cracked corn and feed a few Donnelly Park mallards.)

                But at any rate, I do encourage you to feed the birds!  It will be good for them — and good for you as well!