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Master Gardeners: Birds, birds & more birds

Ever since I retired in 2000, I have been watching and feeding the birds in our backyard. I was surprised to learn not all little birds were sparrows. I have Chickadees, Titmouse, Pine Warblers and Goldfinches along with the larger birds, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red-Headed and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers who all come to my feeders. During the spring migrations, I have seen Painted Buntings and Rose-Breasted Grosbecks come to the feeders.

We also hang hummingbird feeders to help our littlest birds get the nectar they need. Mostly in the spring and summer we have the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds visit. In the winter we have had the Rufous Hummingbird visit.

I have found when feeding the birds, they like the black-oiled sunflower seeds and safflower seeds the most. The smaller birds like the hulled seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Even though the Titmouse and Chickadees are small birds, they love peanuts along with the Blue Jays and Woodpeckers.

Right now, I am filling my feeders every other day to keep them full of seed. All these birds are eating up a storm. During the freeze, I was putting out seed every day.

Birds are important to our environment. They keep systems in balance by pollinating plants, disperse seeds, scavenge carcasses and recycle nutrients into the soil. In addition, they control pests, such as the Eastern Phoebe that I see on occasion sitting on the top of my pole system watching for insects, flying up and back when it sees one to eat and the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher which comes through our area at times.

When birds such as the Hummingbirds get nectar or fruit (such as berries) from trees, vines, etc. both are benefiting, the birds getting much needed food and the plant is being pollinated in order to produce seeds to carry on life of the plant.

Hummingbirds will start their migration north pretty soon if they have not already started. They will be super tired from their crossing the Gulf of Mexico non-stop and will need the energy from nectar in our feeders to keep them going. Since we will not have any flowers blooming at the time, we need to do what we can to help these delicate little birds. During the summer when flowers are in abundance, they work getting nectar along with pollinating plants. The picture also has a recipe for homemade juice you can feed these little creatures if you do not have any store bought available. Be sure to boil the water and let it cool or use distilled water.

Just remember, birds are our friends, and we need to do what we can to save them along with other pollinators such as bees and butterflies. They help the home gardener as well as the large farmers. So, do your part, give them the food they need especially in times when food is not readily available for them. Watching the birds feed is relaxing along with seeing what varieties come to your feeder. You would be surprised the different birds that might show up.

Sheri Bernard is part of Orange County Master Gardeners. For your horticultural questions, please call 409-882-7010, Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or email ocmg1990@gmail.com.