SIKESTON -- Backyards are popular feeding places.
To increase the popularity of your feeding station, furnish it with water year round. The bluebird, Missouri's state bird, may be enticed to feeding stations during the winter if water is available.
During prolonged periods of ice and snow cover, provide grit along with the seed. Birds lack teeth and the grit that they keep in their gizzards is used to grind up seeds.
Besides furnishing the most attractive seed and a clean water supply, you may entice birds to your yard in other ways. Native trees, shrubs, vines and flowers not only provide food for birds, but they also provide cover. Many decorative trees and shrubs produce fruits and berries for birds.
While winter is the most popular time to stock feeders, many people enjoy feeding birds year round. That's because different species visit feeders during different seasons. For example, some birds are only summer residents of Missouri; others are here only during the winter months.
Behavior also changes with the seasons. In the spring and summer, many young birds follow their parents to the feeder. It is fascinating to watch the adults show their young to the feeder and show them how to crack open the seeds.
People often say that once you start feeding birds, it's better for them if you remain diligent and continue to feed them routinely. In fact, no research indicates that, during normal weather, birds will starve if feeding is stopped for a time.
Remember, birds are highly mobile and resourceful. They often visit many feeding stations in a neighborhood and if yours runs out they will seek food elsewhere.
According to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, 51.3 million Americans report that they watch birds. This number grows annually and many of them watch birds right in their own backyards.
Missouri is a great state for birds. Of the approximately 900 species in North America, more than 400 have been recorded in Missouri and more than 150 species regularly nest in our state.
Maintaining a bird feeder in your yard is entertaining and a relatively easy way to get to know some of them.
Remember, sunflowers are very attractive to birds and are the most favorable. Black-oil sunflower seeds attract the widest variety of birds that eat seeds.
Whit millet, also available in bulk, is appealing to doves, sparrows, juncos and other birds that feed on the ground. It works well to scatter millet on the ground underneath a feeder that is stocked with black-oil sunflower seed.
If you have any questions on backyard feeding, feel free to contact Leother Branch, conservation agent, at 573-471-5737 or visit any feed store in your area.