published Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Dalton Roberts: A frugal guide to feeding the birds


by Dalton Roberts

We see people in one way, not realizing they have been in many roles and economic conditions in their lives. People have said to me many times, "You must make a lot of money to afford all those fancy seeds and feeders you write about. I'd like to feed birds, but I just can't afford it."

I have been so poor at times and for periods of my life that if the wolf had ever come to my door, he would have had to bring his own picnic lunch. Even after years of employment and a decent retirement plan, I still do not live high on the hog. I do understand that bird feeding can be as expensive as you care to make it.

I also know you can find ways to enjoy the birds no matter what your income is. Look upon it as a challenge to your ingenuity.

Recently a man wrote thanking me for getting him into bird watching. He spoke of how his blood pressure had dropped and how he could hardly wait every morning to get to his bird-watching window. From the kinds of seeds he mentioned feeding his birds, I could see he was not a wealthy man. One thing he mentioned was corn.

Corn is one of the cheapest seeds a person can buy for birds. It is amazing how many birds go for it. Not just blackbirds. Gorgeous birds like the cardinal love it. It is a nourishing food and will keep birds warm during severe cold spells.

Speaking of corn, you can get a bag of popcorn for a buck at a Dollar Store and enjoy feeding the ducks at the lake or a nearby pond. The antics of the ducks make this one of my favorite bird-feeding experiences.

Coming down the economic scale, a bag of general mix bird food is still within the budget of most, and the good thing is that you can attract all birds with it. The sunflower seeds attract the most desirable birds such as chickadees, titmice and goldfinch; the safflower brings in the cardinals (it's their favorite), and the millet brings in the doves and sparrows.

Sparrows are one of the most under-appreciated species of birds. The reputation of the English sparrow is the main reason, but the Black-throated sparrow is a delight with a beautiful song. Some sparrows are so beautiful you will mistake them for warblers.

In case the regularity of filling feeders does not appeal to you, there's no reason you cannot be like a man wrote me and called himself "an occasional angel" to the birds.

He wrote, "Maybe I am lazy but I never stick with feeding birds. But I do like to help them out during the worst cold spells. So I get out my biggest cornbread skillet and make a big slab of cornbread. I even put a half cup of peanut butter in it and lots of grease. Then I lay it out on a flat surface and it's first come, first served. Before the last bite is gone I will see woodpeckers, redbirds, wrens, blue jays and every kind of bird that works this part of the planet. Maybe my cornbread saves a few of them from Old Man Winter."

If you can't be a regular feeder, be an occasional angel.

Contact Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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