Feeding and Watering the Birds

Art by Dean Crouser
Art by Dean Crouser

Winter around my part of the prairies is bitterly cold. Lately the daily high has only reached around -25C/-13F.
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Therefore, to look out my frosty kitchen window and see birds busily grooming, drinking water from our de-iced bird bath, and pecking at seeds is quite astonishing. How they manage such cold is impressive. I feel like the least we can do is offer them some food and water!
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The old lilac outside my kitchen window shelters a handmade bird feeding house (made by my eldest son when he was 12, with his dad). Up in the branches hang an old seed ball (too messy…) and a suet feeder (love these!). The daily entertainment and satisfaction my family gets from viewing the variety of local birds that come to feed and drink here is worth every penny.


ground-flicker-and-jayOffering a few peanuts is all it takes to get Blue Jays and Northern Flickers to visit my yard. Buying nuts in bulk helps keep costs down. After we get the huge bags home, we cut them open and pour into airtight (and rodent-proof) plastic bins and store them in the garage. I transfer a manageable supply to a couple of ‘upcycled’ yogurt containers to keep outdoors near the feeder.
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water-de-icerThe de-icer was bought at a local wild bird store but I’ve seen them at Amazon and elsewhere. A Google search should bring up local sources for you. They range from $50-$100 but if you enjoy watching wildlife, it’s worth it. The water is more popular than the food! Finding an unfrozen source of drinking water is challenging for birds in this winter weather.

Keep Cats Safe and All Happy

Art by Karen Schmidt
Art by Karen Schmidt

If you share your home with a cat, here are a few ideas that can help add peace to your home and your life. Also hats off to today’s artists Karen Schmidt and Lisa Jacobs and their gorgeous works of art. Click on the image of either painting to visit their sites.

As a birder, gardener, city dweller and cat lover, I can get pretty passionate on the topic about letting cats roam free outdoors.

Their needless yet impulsive hunting can wipe out a seasons’ worth of nestlings. Bells don’t help. Songbirds have plenty of obstacles from habitat loss, pollutants and window kills without having the added and unnecessary challenges of suffering from highly effective predation by cats. (see info below)

However I also feel strongly about the quality of life for all animals and as a cat lover, having them join me in my garden is delightful and amusing company. And they adore the fresh air and outdoors time. Our three cats are contained within our back yard. It helps that they’re getting older. In the future if we have young ones again (as opposed to adopting an older cat; our home will never be without a cat) we may have to add reinforcement to our fencing containment, or consider building a screened outdoor cat space.

Art by Lisa Jacobs
Art by Lisa Jacobs
‘Bit O’luck’ this painted bluebird needs more than luck to protect it from cats

If I lived on an acreage with room for my felines to roam free without worry of cars, I still don’t think I’d let them. Firstly for their own sake, since we have lots of hares where I live, and hares mean coyotes. A free ranging domestic cat equals an easier meal for a coyote than a speedy hare. And secondly: Back to the safety of local fauna! Cats are impulsive and ruthless killers of small creatures such as birds, frogs, and salamanders. It’s been proven that being well fed has zero deterrence for a cat’s powerful killing instinct.

There are better options! Yard containment, and if you live in a more populated area than the ‘burbs where I am, and find yourself in an apartment, balconies have great fresh air potential for kitties, but please protect them by enclosing the area. The number of fatalities from cats falling off balcony railings is heart breaking. Don’t let it happen in your family!

Indoors there are lots of ideas we can do to increase their entertainment and help reduce bad cat behaviour that often results from boredom. Definitely encourage window viewing. In a house with a cat a window without a viewing shelf is a missed opportunity. Install them wherever you can.

And for some ideas, here’s today’s slideshow of clever shelf placement, fence topper containment, indoor tree houses for cats, and ways to hide the necessary litter box.

“To some blind souls all cats are much alike. To a cat lover every cat from the

beginning of time has been utterly and amazingly unique.” ~ Jenny De Vries

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Statistics: “According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, studies now show that in many suburban areas, pet cats make up 42% of the diets of coyotes. Allowing cats to roam freely outdoors, not only puts cats at risk, but it is also taking a toll on wildlife. Another study entitled ‘Mesopredator Release and Avifauna Extinctions in a Fragmented System’, which appeared in the journal Nature, was written by two ecologists, Kevin Crooks and Michael Soulé. The study tracked numbers of kills by free-roaming cats in San Diego County. The study showed these cats brought home an average of 24 small mammals, 15 birds, and 17 lizards per year. The study did not include kills that were made and not ‘returned’ to the owner, so they are most likely way understated.” ~ Source prweb.com

Links for additional information:
http://www.ikeahackers.net/search/label/pet%20furniture
http://www.petstrends.com/2008/10/07/unique-cat-furniture-kittyloft/
http://absoluteleigh.com.au/build-your-own-cat-furniture/