(BPT) - When you fill your bird feeders and put fresh water in the birdbath this season, you'll definitely be giving your feathered friends a helping hand. But you could also be serving the greater good!
Take note of the birds that visit your yard, and you'll be ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a four-day annual event during which thousands of people around the world record information about the species of birds they see. The information backyard bird-watchers gather assists scientists in better understanding the movement of species around the globe, how well different species are - or aren't - doing and how factors like climate change are affecting bird populations everywhere.
And when the bird count is over, you'll still enjoy a yard filled with the pleasing colors and sounds of wild birds.
Birds are important
'We enjoy birdwatching and feeding birds because they brighten our backyards and entertain us with their antics, especially during long winters,' says Richard Cole, co-founder of Cole's Wild Bird Products. 'But birds also play an important role in maintaining environmental balance around the world. They pollinate plants, scatter seeds so new plants can grow, help control insect populations and recycle nutrients back into the soil. It's critical for us to have a greater understanding of how bird species are doing around the world, and to do our part to help take care of them.'
Bird populations are so diverse, large and widespread that it would be virtually impossible for scientists to gather all the data they need without help from backyard bird enthusiasts who participate in the GBBC. The information gathered help scientists identify species whose numbers are decreasing or increasing, changes in range or migratory patterns and more. Fluctuations in bird populations are often the earliest signs of greater environmental changes.
What you can do
Founded in 1998, and co-sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada, the next Great Backyard Bird Count will be Feb. 17-20, 2017. You can start preparing to participate by taking steps now to make your own backyard an oasis for birds.
* Start by offering a variety of feeders. Different species prefer different styles of feeders. Tube feeders are versatile and appeal to a wide range of bird species. They can also handle large (think sunflower) or small seeds (like petite mixes) equally well. Some birds prefer to cling to feeders while dining, rather than perch, so use a versatile Mesh feeder; or try a Bowl feeder, perfect for serving suet in kibble form, dried mealworms and fresh fruit. You can find a variety of feeders from Cole's. Be sure to keep all feeders clean and in good condition to help prevent disease and injury.
* Serve a variety of birdfeed. In winter, seeds with a high fat or oil content are best for birds, so offer black oil sunflower seeds, niger, raw peanuts and suet. To attract the greatest variety of birds, try Cole's Blue Ribbon Blend, which incorporates black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower meats, white proso millet and cracked corn. Special Feeder is a high-energy blend that also attracts large numbers of birds, with the perfect mixture of black oil sunflower, sunflower meats, black stripe, raw peanuts, safflower and pecans. Birds also need (and love) suet, Cole's offers no-melt suet cakes, specialty suets and a seed and suet mix, Nutberry Suet, to help ensure birds get the fat stores they need to weather winter.
* Fill every feeder with quality food. Birds won't be satisfied with birdfeed that contains cheap fillers, and they won't get the nutrition they need. Think of it as the difference between serving your family fresh veggies instead of fast food. Serve birdfeed that contains quality ingredients and is free of chemicals or other toxins that could be harmful to birds. Cole's formulates all its feed to attract birds, and uses only natural, top-quality seeds. Their products contain no fillers, preservatives, mineral oils or pesticides.
Be sure to also offer birds plenty of fresh water; it can be very difficult for them to find unfrozen water sources in winter.
By feeding backyard birds and participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you can be counted on to help protect the wellbeing of wild bird populations. What's more, the work you do prepping your yard for the count will benefit you - and your feathered friends - throughout the year. For more information about birdfeed and how to attract birds to your yard, visit coleswildbird.com.