By Dr. Ken Steigman

Feeding and Wild Food Supplies

Most winter resident birds should now be in your vicinity, with the exception of those species whose erratic migratory behavior is driven by extreme cold fronts, heavy snows and other adverse weather conditions. How soon to expect a good clientele at your feeder is a good question. In many parts of the country La Nina will certainly influence your turnout. Weather in the southern United States is predicted to be very mild and relatively dry. This means that birds will need to burn fewer calories to maintain their body temperatures, and thus may not be as driven to our feeders if they can find enough natural food in the wild.

Of course, how much natural food there is in the wild is in part dependent upon the effect of last summerís El Nino during the growing season. Many parts of the country experienced droughts that prevented some plants from producing normal quantities of seed and fruit. Plants that set seed early and were able to take advantage of early spring moisture probably were not affected. But those that characteristically bloom later and require water during the summer may not have been as fortunate. If you have been developing a native landscape in your backyard, your plants probably fared better than the same species in the wild because supplemental watering helps to avoid stress that prohibits fruit from setting. Thus your backyard may now be a more attractive foraging zone than many adjacent wild areas even before you fill and hang the bird feeders.

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