Monday, January 24, 2011

WANTED--JOB FOR BIRDS






My birds need to start bringing home the coins. I love watching these little beauties with colorful feathers (well some are colorful), cheerful chatter and industrious scratching as they hunt a bite to eat.

Do I know one from another? I can identify some of them but only if they wear something more flamboyant than brown or gray feathers. Yes, a lot of mine fall into the LBB (little brown birds) or LGB (if they are gray) categories. I can hear the serious birders out there groaning at my ignorance.

When in Florida, the differences were easier to spot. A pelican looks nothing like an osprey, but when you get into the many wren and sparrow species, I get lost. A bird has to really look different for me to know who he is. I am a bird appreciator, not an identifier. Sorry.

Now that I have confessed, I will also state that I go to great lengths to make sure my anonymous feathered friends are well cared for. I stock 5 feeders plus 2 suet bars and provide all you can eat diners. I offer a fresh supply of water that is heated so it never freezes. I leave out 5 bird houses so that the birds can use them for shelter from the cold. Am I forgiven?

True, they give me a lot of pleasure watching their antics and my cats adore the show so this is not a one sided affair. However, the number has grown enormously. Sometimes the ground looks alive as it seems to undulate with the little bodies hopping and flitting as they scrounge for fallen seeds.




This is the best I could do trying to catch them all at once. Sadly my attempt didn't work. They scatter at the slightest noise so I can't capture the real number. Even when the ground and feeders are full, the trees are alive with little bodies ( mostly Juncos in the above shot) just waiting their turn. They come in waves. It looks like feathered fruit growing in the trees. Multiply by 3 different feeding areas and you can see my problem.

What has changed has nothing to do with the the birds, but in the price of their food. I usually have a set point for a price I am willing to pay for a particular item.
For example, I will not pay $5.00 for a gallon of gasoline. I will sell my house, move into town and ride a bicycle first. Sometimes I don't really have a predetermined price limit, I just know when I have reached it. That happened the other day.

I have been buying the 50 pound sacks of oiled sunflower seeds to feed the birds since I moved here. Last year I paid $13.95 for 50 pounds. This year started at $15.95, then it bumped up two more dollars and then yesterday it bumped up two more dollars to $19.95. When I questioned the clerk, she shook her head sadly and said next week it will be selling for $22.95.


Since I can't make 50 pounds last more than 5 days, I will be looking at around $120.00 a month for bird food. Please realize that I am living on Social Security and am not "Patti much bucks." Ok birds, it is time you found paying jobs to help out. If you have to steal out of coin returns, that is Ok with me.

Till they find employment and start helping out, I am cutting out the “all you can eat” diner during fair weather. I will fill all 5 feeders only once a day, when that is gone, they are on their own. That move alone will cut my bill by over half. Now if there is snow on the ground, I will maintain the “all you can eat” routine. I have a hard time being hard.

I really need to install plants this year that will provide some natural winter foods for next year. Something in ground that they can nibble on. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Planting a sunflower crop is all ready a plan.

Oh yes, does anyone know a good use for sunflower shells?

35 comments :

  1. I also spend more than $100 a month on bird seed, but I fill two feeders with nyjer which is much more expensive. It amazes me how many birds I have and decided that I would wean them off my feeders during the summer when there is plenty of other food for them. I'll start again in the fall. For now I'm stuck feeding them every day, sometimes twice.

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  2. Wow, those birds recognize a good thing when they see it, and they tell all their friends. They are resilient, though. I'm sure they will adapt to a bit of rationing. Or--how about switching out the feeders with those coin operated gum and trinket machines youngsters are so good at spotting in stores. That would teach them some industriousness. Sorry about no suggestions for seed shells, but if you put them on the garden thinking they will make good mulch, you will get a crop of sunflower plants.

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  3. Patti, you are too good for this world! Your birds are being spoiled and they warn all their feathered friends that you are a generous hostess.
    You must be surrounded by friends! So please don't feel like king David, for he was a soldier and fought many wars.You are a peace loving woman.

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  4. I empathize with your dilemma, Patti; it's getting more and more difficult to stretch a fixed income. There are times when I have to let my feeders stay empty, or divide a quart of seeds between the feeders so the birds can have something.

    I enjoyed your birdy photos. You have many more Juncos than I've had here. I'm overrun with sparrows at present.

    The lead photo is great! I didn't know Grackles would steal.

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  5. We spoil our birds, but it also saves a lot of mess, we buy the sun flower chips, no shells left to worry about and we've been buying shelled peanuts. A 50 pound bag of chips and a 20 or 25 pound (not sure the size) bag of peanuts last a month. I fill the feeder once a day, we have two suet cakes hanging, and I scatter a lot of different little piles of food on the patio and several flat cement things under the tree. We also have a heated water dish. The squirrels eat most from the ground, the birds also ( like the cardinals) will come to the patio, the blue jays love the peanuts and we also will throw out peanuts in the shell for them, and the squirrels. Like you, when it's extremely cold or snowing, I brush away the snow and will put the seed on the patio and flat cement spots several times a day. I try to make the food last a month. The Crows also like the peanuts in the shell. The sunflowers chips has gone up some, but like I said, it's worth it not having the waste shells on the ground. But when Abe was feeding them, we would sometimes have to buy food twice a month. I told him that was getting too expensive and he would even want to feed them in warmer weather. I told him they could find bugs and etc to eat. I do like to put finch food out in the warmer weather to attract the little yellow finches, they look like little canaries. Stay warm here this morning it is 18 and spitting snow.

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  6. Sorry Barry, I deleted you by accident. Bad Patti

    Barry has left a new comment on your post "WANTED--JOB FOR BIRDS":

    Your top sunflower price is the norm out here. I get all tingly if I can get it for $19.00. Sunflower use as a biodiesel has helped, er fuel the cost. No plant suggestions other than any number of perennial plants such as coreopsis or echinacea. Growing sunflower is a good alternative. I am always fighting the squirrels, jays and crows as they start tearing apart the flower heads just as the seeds are getting perfect.

    Guess I shouldn't feel badly about $22.00 huh. Since I have no squirrels--I know, how rare is that, I will try your recommendations. Thanks. Sorry again for the accidental delete.

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  7. Wooo--that's much more than I spend.. I averaged $35 a month all last year for my entire bird budget (which included new feeders, etc.)... I have 6 feeders and two suet feeders. Five of my feeders have black-oil sunflower seeds in them and the 6th one has Niger (for the finches), which is much more expensive.

    I guess the biggest difference is that I am only feeding the birds --and have my feeders on my deck, keeping raccoons and squirrels OUT of the feeders. The squirrels will eat the spilled bird seed. But--my budget only allows for feeding the birds, so I have been known to bring some of the feeders in the house at nights (to keep the skunks and raccoons away).

    I have TONS of birds --especially in winter (I feed them year round) --but have never used as much bird food as you have.

    I have no idea what to do with the hulls. I usually just try to keep them raked up (especially in summer)... I won't use the sunflower chips because they are much more expensive and don't go as far.

    Good Luck Patti... The prices of everything are really going sky high ... Scary!!!! I hope that neither of us ever has to quit feeding our feathered friends.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  8. There you go feeding the masses again. I simply can't afford to fill my black oil sunflower feeder more than twice a week. The rest of the time the tweets have to hussle for their grub elsewhere.

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  9. I have NEVER had so many birds at my feeders. I think it just plain a very hard winter for all the wildlife, with the deep snow and ice layers underneath. My plan have been to scatter some cheapo seeds on the ground and corn, then raise the feeders out of reach of my local deer herd & turkeys. :)

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  10. I had this problem when we lived in Texas. I was told to decide on the amount of food I could afford to feed on a daily basis. Put that amount out and the flock would eventually adjust its size to that amount of food. After that I put out what I could afford and went back in the house feeling I'd done my part. I couldn't feed all the birds.

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  11. I buy crazy-expensive stuff at Wild Birds Unlimited. $19.95 per 20 pounds, but I only fill one tube feeder, one platform feeder and some ground seed, once per day. That's it. If it's gone, it's gone until the next day. I'm pretty sure our neighbors also feed the birds, so they are pretty well cared for. The birds must know of other natural sources, too. At least I hope they do. Feed your beautiful birds within your budget, patti. I'm sure they'll be okay.

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  12. It's so wonderful that you feed the birds. What a shame that the prices keep going up. Rationing like you've described seems to make the most sense. Maybe fewer people will buy the birdseed once the prices get too high and then the prices will come back down.

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  13. I understand that feeding wild life discourages them from hunting and foraging according to their nature. So, begin to cut back on their feeding; yes, put some plants with berries for them; encourage things to go to seed in your garden and leave some for the wildlife.

    We appreciate their songs and plummage, but we are also interfering with their patterns, their instincts to forage and find other food sources.

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  14. We have had more birds this winter than ever, I think the weather has caused the larger flocks. I know it is not as good for the birds as the black oil sunflower seeds but you could get some of the cheaper bird seeds and mix in with the sunflower seeds, that may help. Filling the feeders as many times as you can afford to will be better than not feeding at all. Just do what you can and know you have helped. I am sure the birds would appreciate having less food than no food. Birds love the berries on nandina shrubs.

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  15. Djan,
    Thank you, now I don't feel so badly however that nyjer is like gold. Have you noticed there just seems to be more birds this year?

    Olga,
    I love that idea and it would be great fun to watch.
    Since I plan to grow sunflowers, that may be a plan to spread the hulls.

    Reader Wil,
    I am positive they are spreading the word. I have never had so many birds.
    It was the current world situation that made me feel like a bit like David.

    Pat Arkansas,
    Hasn't there really been in increase of birds this year. Think it is from all the bad weather all over.

    Patty,
    Wish I could afford the shelled seeds. This is breaking me. However like you did to Abe, I will just have to cut back. I don't mind when there is no snow on the ground. We do what we can.

    Betsy,
    Think you are right. You probably have a lot more people feeding than I do. I am pretty much the only diner in the area.

    Brighid,
    That is what I am going to have to do also. It really got out of hand.

    troutbirder,
    I agree, this year has been a bumper crop of birds. Pretty sure the weird winter we have had is to blame. Boy am I glad I don't have deer and turkeys or I'd feel I had to feed them also:))

    Linda,
    I think you have nailed it. The more I saw, the more feeders I put out and the more birds I got. Provide and they will come.

    robin,
    Ah you are probably feeding that nyjer which is like crack to finches and very expensive. You have the right attitude and I will try to copy it.

    Ellen,
    Barry mentioned that they are using it as a biofuel which is driving up the prices. Same thing happened to corn. Think rationing is my only hope.

    rosaria,
    I do believe this bizarre winter has a lot of bearing on the abundance of birds. This hasn't happened before. I will wean them down before I become a street person.

    Mumsy,
    I agree with the strange weather and the increase of hungry mouths.
    I have a bunch of Nandina but I got the berry less ones which are not so invasive. Also the berries are poisonous to dogs and cats. I will definitely look for natural foods for next year.

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  16. Patti, you are indeed a good woman.

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  17. I think that as long as you provide for the birds in bad weather they will be fine and maybe a little once a day to keep them around, the rest of the year. Would the food last longer if you made some fat ball to hang from the trees from any beef/lamb fat or lard you might have from grill pans ...neighbour might save it for you if it works. ... limited income makes it hard ...I think I spend more on the cats than myself even though they get only the healthy minimum of food per day.They only eat the more expensive varieties though ...just my luck ...I have tried the cheaper ones but most get funny tummies or are sick on them.

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  18. I too love the birds but can't afford to feed them, I think you can add those seed shells to your compost pile. I know the birds will eat that poke salad seed in dead of winter after it turns black and beauty berry and lots of grasses with seed heads would be good; how about checking with the
    master gardeners or game wardens they might know what you could plant that was native that the birds could eat.

    They have been talking about raising food prices because of fuel prices, but the food comes in a truck and I don't see why each item has to be raised up so much the percentage being more than the percentage of the fuel, Everything goes up and the incomes continue to go down in this country. It's really depressing to me.

    I do feel sorry for the birds in really cold weather, I'd have to spring for some food for them in a colder climate I guess especially during the snow, ice and wind. I always had gardens where I let everything go to seed and then chopped it down in the spring I know the perennials had lots of seed for them and I would see them eating amount the drying branches and my herb gardens which were huge gave them lots of food, so little by little I had a bird habitat without having to pay for food. Maybe there is an audobon society nearby that can give some advice where food can be purchased less expensively.

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  19. Gracious bird feeders or should I sayi "Daddy Warbucks " bird feeders. You give me the guilts. I don't feed birds.

    You could train the long beaked birds to raid the Salvation Army pots during the Holidays. And you could station birds at interections with a sign around their necks saying, "Will tweet for coins."

    But for real, a sunflower crop sounds the best.
    Love and peace

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  20. We feed the birds at my house too Patti but not like my sister - she must have a dozen feeders and often fills them twice a day when she's at home. I think when she retires that will have to stop. :( blessings, marlene

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  21. I am going tell Mr. Bruce he isn't the only one spending money feeding the birds. I don't know what he spends per month. He puts the feed on top of a rock wall that runs across the back yard. That way several birds can feed at once. Also, we can see that area from our recliners, the birds are our entertainment. We don't have a pet, so we can of consider the birds our pets. Feeding them outside is a lot easier than cleaning a bird cage. ;-)

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  22. AHA! NOW you get the idea why I don't want the damnsquirrels in my feeders, pigging out on birdseed! it's a good thing you don't have squirrels around or that bag wouldn't last five days! They can really pack it away.

    Guess you'll have to plant shrubs and trees with berries. Oh. . . and sunflowers. :)

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  23. I feed the elk and deer (I don't mean to do it, they just steal my horses' hay) so I know what you mean. I bet I spend 50 or 100 dollars extra every month because the the moochers. Don't get me wrong, I love them and don't want them to go away, but they sure do make problems in my hay budget!

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  24. Gee, Patti - That IS a lot of $$ for bird food! I have not put a feeder out this year because I noticed that it was drawing coyotes. I can never have a feeder between March and Nov because of bears! So - our birds mainly fend for themselves. I do sometimes throw out stale bread/crackers and the Gray Jays come immediately (how do they know?) to gobble it up.

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  25. We entered winter with 8 large bags of black oil sunflower seeds, bought 'on sale' at TSC for $7.99 each, normally it's $13. We only have 3 left. When the ground is covered with snow, they eat twice as much, hope it lasts till Spring!

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  26. Oh my Patti,
    isn't that the truth? It's so sad that everything is just so expensive these days! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!
    as far as jobs for the birds? Ummm, I'll have to ponder that thought! Perhaps we should give them a cup and they can stand on the street corner?

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  27. Wow, you sure have attracted lots of birds! I'm sure it can get expensive.
    I used to have many more at my feeders that I have now. Most of them moved on to other places when 3 cats began stalking them as they ate.

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  28. marciamayo,
    I'm not too smart but I try. Thanks.

    Angie,
    Ouch, I know what you mean about cat food. I have a cat with stomach problems also and only the most expensive seems to work for her. Seems we both got unlucky there.

    Linda Starr,
    Thanks for all the ideas. That is definitely how I will go for next year. I did check about poke though and it is poisonous to dogs so that won't do but will try the other.

    manzanita,
    All I can say is don't start. It is addictive. Love the idea of signs. Might work:))

    Stichinbythelake,
    Oh, I know what she is going through. Trust me, retirement will put a crimp in the all you can eat plan.

    Miss Dazey,
    Kudos to Mr. Bruce. My kind of guy. The birds are a lot of entertainment, I just need scale back my operation a bit.

    marylee,
    Perhaps I finally understand. Sometimes "cute" just isn't enough is it?

    Rocky Mountain Woman,
    Wow, now I feel fortunate. Deer and elk must be amazing to watch but goodness they are big eaters.

    Barb,
    Yikes, bears. I have seen what bears do when you run out of food. It is not pretty. You are smart not to put food out they can get into.

    Wanda,
    You are so lucky with that price. The sale price is amazing but I would settle for the $13.00 price which is what I paid last year.
    Sounds like you might run out. Glad to know there is another heavy feeder like me.

    Tracy,
    I'b be content if people just put seed in the tin cups. Not a bad idea. I mean fair is fair.

    Sweet Virginia Breeze,
    I have no preditors here and even the Roadrunners that used to terrorize the birds are not around. They have no fears.

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  29. Patti,
    I am EXTREMELY jealous you were able to miss out on the joys of menopause. I wish I could share mine :) and yeah, I wonder how much we are saving missing the 'women's aisle' in the store; interesting thought!

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  30. Birds, I love birds. I only put out suet cakes anymore and the Chickadees and Woodpecker find these. The rats get seeds that spill on the ground. They are such vermin. My daughter had a yard full of sunflowers. Apparently they spread fairly well. You may find some volunteers next summer. Dianne

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  31. Tracy,
    So sorry, I knew you would feel that way. What can I say, luck of the draw.

    schmidleysscribblins,
    So far no rats, sure hope they don't find it.
    I do hope I do get some volunteers, that would work.

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  32. I love that you have such a Big Heart, Patti...Those dear Birds are lucky to have you! And such a feast coming their way. But I understand how hard it is to not feed them...
    Cat food is getting more and more expensive, too as are all pet foods, I guess.....
    The cost of EVERYTHING is getting beyond the beyond!!! My Medical Insurance Provider---after Medicare, just went up and I Mean UP!!!! What is a person supposed to do!

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  33. OOLOH,
    That is the truth and I don't see any break for a while. I don't have a medigap insurance for that very reason. Right now my medical expenses are nil but that can all change with one breath. I just pray nothing big hits.

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  34. Oh your pictures are so good! I know what you mean those sweet little birds can put away some food.Glad I found your blog!

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  35. Alicia,
    Thank you so much for stopping by. I will check you blog now.

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