February 2016

Invitations may create long-standing relationships

Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation

All in all, the winter has been pretty good to us in south-central Iowa. Through the social media and observations, there have been many reported species of birds showing up to feeders that ordinarily would not be considered on Iowa’s winter bird list. The berries provided on shrubs and trees have seemed to be accessible without layers of ice lasting for long periods of time. The prairies and grasslands still hold abundant seed. On nicer days, it’s always fun to watch the birds flip the leaf litter looking for insects. Surprisingly, they do find a few treats in the debris.

Feeding birds at a bird feeder or providing landscape plantings that provide fruits, berries, and nuts are not only enjoyable, it’s a great family activity that can be enjoyed no matter the season! Bird feeding can be as elaborate or as simple as you have time. Attracting them is not so difficult if you provide them the same basic needs as people or other living organisms. We all need food, water and shelter.

With our winters here in Iowa, black oil sunflower seed can be one of the most beneficial foods that will help birds stay warm through normal and extreme conditions. Providing water can be as simple as a heated water bowl that our outdoor pets may utilize. Plantings, trees, shrubs and places that they can fly to easily are very important to escape predators or wait for their opportunity to feed. You may find that feeding and watching birds around your area is a great social activity, brings appreciation and a connection to nature, is fun, and to some, nourishes them through the winter and warms the soul. Any invitation you provide the birds in your area may create long-standing relationships. Here are some great links and resources for backyard bird feeding...

Books that may be available at your County Conservation Board Office or Library:

    • Wild about Birds, the DNR Bird Feeding Guide, Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources, Carrol L. Henderson

    • Feeding Wild Birds in Winter, by Clive Dobson


Birdwatching, backyard feeding, and visiting public birding blinds are all considered hobby’s to most. Did you know that the birds you see can actually assist scientists and researchers monitor migration, migration patterns, and help with bird conservation issues? Here are a few organizations that can really benefit from your passion or pleasure of bird observation. Just think, YOU can help answer questions that scientists cannot collect and answer all on their own!

Check out photos of birds in the winter - opens in Google Photos.

Get ready for those hummers to return! The Hummingbird Society is one of the best informational sites that we have found for feeding hummingbirds and getting questions answered. Here is the best hummingbird nectar recipe!