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Give a gift of nature

JoAnne Skelly
For the Nevada Appeal

The time for gifts is upon us. Perhaps someone on your gift list is a fortunate one who need nothing this year. They have enough clothes and other essentials. Their home is complete. Elders often have a home filled with the gifts of years and desire nothing more. Shopping for these people can be a challenge, yet you want to give them some token of your esteem or love that brings them joy.

Give them a beautiful joyous gift of nature. I propose that you give bird feeders, seed, binoculars and a bird book. Bird watching can brighten a gloomy dull day.

Something interesting is always going on. Birds are active at feeders, flying in and swooping out as they try to find their spot at the feeder. Some are wiser than others and hop on the ground picking up dropped seed. Since different kinds of seed attract different types of birds, multiple feeders can provide a microcosm of nature in front of a window. Identifying all the different types is an enjoyable hobby. Spotting a rare bird is exciting and rewarding.

Black thistle attracts finches such as American goldfinch, lesser goldfinch, house finches and other finch-like birds such as sparrows, pine siskins and juncos. Most birds will eat black sunflower seed, but occasionally more uncommon species such as black-headed grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks and Western tanagers may appear at a feeder. Mourning doves, quail and towhees gather underneath feeders to pick up what falls down as the other birds feed. Scrub jays and an occasional Stellar jay will join in the fun. Suet feeders interest woodpeckers, jays and flickers. However, where there are bird feeders there are also predators such as Cooper’s, sharp-shinned and other hawks. Cats are a huge risk to feeding birds, so feeders must be placed out of a cat’s reach.

Birds require water, shelter and food to survive. Water in a birdbath helps, but as it freezes, try to remove the ice and refill it or buy a heater for your birdbath. Trees and shrubs provide shelter.

Feeding birds is a winterlong commitment, for providing them food now deters them from retreating to warmer climes. If food is not available for them during the cold months, it may be too late for them to fly to where food is and they could die. Perhaps as a gift giver you can provide food to last the season. Happy giving!

For more information on birds and their habitat contact me, 775-887-2252 or skellyj@unce.unr.edu, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at http://www.unce.unr.edu. “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.

– JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City and Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.