National Bird Feeding Month 2019

February 15, 2019
American Goldfinch

Mississippi Aquarium will be home to an interactive bird aviary where you'll be able to get up close and feed a variety of colorful and beautiful exotic birds. Additionally our outdoor campus will provide important habitat and food sources for native wild birds. We love all of our feathered friends, and February is the perfect month to think of the birds in your own backyard.

February was proclaimed National Bird-Feeding Month by Congressman John Porter (R-IL) in 1994. February was chosen because it is one of the most difficult months for wild bird survival. By this point in winter, fresh food is scarce, food stores are used up, and fat reserves are growing thin. The goal for having a "National Bird-Feeding Month" is to raise awareness and encourage people to provide food, water and shelter for wild birds.

Unlike almost every other wildlife species where you are repeatedly told "don't feed the animals", feeding wild birds is universally promoted. It serves as a hobby, a conservation initiative and connects people to nature.

There is nothing like getting up-close to wildlife to inspire a love of animals and the environment.

If you want to get started with wild bird feeding or want to attract more species to your feeders try these five tips from The National Audubon Society:

1.       Locate bird feeders at different heights to attract ground, shrub and tree feeding species.

2.       Diversify your seed mix and put different types of seeds in different feeders.

3.       Use animal fat suet to attract woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice in the winter. The cool weather keeps the suet fresh.

4.       Use peanut butter mixed with corn meal instead of animal fat suet in the summer because the hot temperatures can cause the suet to spoil.

5.       Fruit eating birds such as bluebirds, waxwings, robins and mockingbirds won’t visit feeders for seeds but love dried fruit. You can also put out fresh orange slices for orioles and tanagers.

Tufted Titmouse

Mississippi is located in the middle of one of the most important migratory bird routes found in North America. More than 325 bird species will migrate through the Mississippi Flyway from their summer breeding grounds in Canada to wintering along the Gulf coast and Central and South America. This means that Mississippi bird feeders provide much needed energy for the migratory birds as they pass through. It’s very exciting to see rare birds stop for a visit like  western kingbirds, lark buntings and yellow-headed blackbirds in the fall and blue grosbeaks, summer tanagers and prothonotary warblers in the spring and summer. Year round we enjoy cardinals, blue birds, robins, blue jays and more. Bird watching and feeding in Mississippi is a very fun pastime offering the chance to see some of our country's most beautiful birds.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

One of the most amazing migratory birds, the ruby-throated hummingbird, spends summers in Mississippi. This beautiful jewel-like, tiny and tough little bird spends winters in Central and South America and summers throughout North America. The US Gulf Coast region is the first land many hummingbirds see as they migrate across the Gulf from Mexico in late-winter/early-spring and the last land they see before flying back across the water in late-summer/early-fall. For South Mississippi residents you’re most likely to see hummingbirds at your feeders in early spring (late February - April) and early fall (September - November). In North Mississippi, the hummingbirds will reside and nest all season, so for North residents, you will see hummingbirds from April - October.

Hummingbirds readily visit nectar feeders, but they can be territorial. To help alleviate the fighting, place several hummingbird feeders together spaced about two feet apart along with plenty of nearby perches (large trees, shrubs, swings, dead branches). Only use sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) in the feeders, and there is no need to use red dye. Keep your feeders clean by using warm vinegar and a thin pipe brush for scrubbing the nectar ports. Change out any un-used nectar every two weeks.

Bird feeding is a great hobby and serves an important role in conservation. You can get involved with citizen science programs like Audubon’s “Hummingbirds at Home” and the “Great Backyard Bird Count”.

These programs allow you to collect valuable data about birds that will be used by scientists to better understand bird movement patterns and migrations.

Happy Feeding!

Author: Holley Muraco, PhD

Director of Research - Mississippi Aquarium