BY: RACHEL WUMKES
A little over twenty years ago, Target produced a commercial to launch their new card that gave back to schools with each purchase. The thirty second spot featured a cute, pudgy little boy with thick-rimmed glasses and an adorable lisp. He continually rang a doorbell before giving a sales pitch on the latest school fundraiser.
Wrapping paper, chocolate bars, bake sale cookies. You know the drill!
A line forever etched in my memory was of him holding a large bag of bird seed. “Wanna buy thome bird-theed?” he asked. “It’th for the birdth.”
Every time I looked at my planner this week and saw “Bird Blog” written, that phrase filtered through my mind, complete with a picture of that kid and all his adorableness.
So, of course, it must be included in this blog. I mean, how can it not? It didn’t take long to find. God bless the internet and its preservation of all things for all time. What did we ever do before Google?
Kudos to the marketing team who created this masterpiece, because 20 years later every time I see bird seed in a store, I say, “Wanna buy thome bird-theed? It’th for the birdth.”
I’m a peach to shop with… honest!
You can imagine the first time I stepped foot into the Basic Birder at the Lake, right? My brain almost short-circuited as I entered the realm of all things bird! If you haven’t yet been to this bright and cheery retail store located at 18 N 3rd Street (across from City Park) in Clear Lake – it is a MUST.
Especially in the spring.
Now, you may be thinking we are still a way off from the migration patterns of birds given the cooler than normal temperatures and blustery winds we’ve been graced with this season. It turns out, however, that birds don’t have an internal weather meter and will come in the spring even if Mother Nature isn’t being very friendly!
Which means NOW is the time to get those feeders out and filled, especially for Hummingbird and Oriole. These friendly fowl have endured a long winter and their bellies are ready to be filled up again. The Basic Birder has a wide variety of feeders for them, as well as nectar and grape jelly on hand for feeding.
Bird baths are another staple in a yard to attract more birds. Birds that don’t come to feeders will come to a water and moving water, especially, attracts more birds. You can add a “water wiggler” to your birdbath. It runs on batteries and is simple to use. As a bonus, it keeps mosquitoes from hatching.
Score! I’ll take a pallet of water wigglers, please!
Another trick to get birds through the colder weather this miserable spring season, is to set out suet for migrating birds. Since the cold is keeping most of the bugs at bay, even birds who don’t normally feed on suet will do so when it’s cold. Suet provides the fat and protein they need to stay warm. In addition to regular suet feeders, you can consider putting suet nuggets or even a suet cake in a tray feeder. It will make feeding easier, especially for the birds who aren’t used to eating out of them.
Now, as all these birds begin to arrive in your yard amongst the trees and bushes, you’re going to want to know what kind of birds you’re seeing. While there are certain birds easily recognizable (think blue jay and cardinal) there are some species you may need a bit of help identifying as they are only seen during migration.
Thankfully, the Basic Birder also carries a wide variety of bird identification books. Grab a field guide and keep an eye out for unusual birds in your yard. This is the perfect time of year you just might get a glimpse of a bird that “doesn’t belong here.”
This year brings an added concern as the birds make their way to their summer home for the season: Avian Influenza, which is being monitored by the Iowa DNR and its federal partners in Iowa’s wild birds. They issued the following statement to keep bird enthusiasts informed and aware of the situation.
Avian influenza is a highly transmissible, naturally occurring disease often found in certain waterfowl and shorebirds. There are various strains of the disease ranging from strains causing no harm to domestic poultry to strains that are lethal.
“Bird loss in the wild is a natural occurrence, so seeing one dead bird shouldn’t be cause for alarm, but if someone is finding a number of dead birds, especially ducks, geese or raptors, we want to know about it,” said Dr. Rachel Ruden, state wildlife veterinarian with the Iowa DNR.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an online database tracking avian influenza positive wild birds by state at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-2022/2022-hpai-wild-birds
Ruden said those who find five or more dead wild birds within a week should report their findings to their local wildlife biologist or state conservation officer. Contact information is available online at www.iowadnr.gov under the About DNR tab on the homepage.
Avian influenza can exist in a deceased bird for several weeks, depending upon environmental conditions. “We are encouraging the public not to handle sick or dead birds or to take sick birds to a wildlife rehabilitator to avoid unintentionally spreading avian influenza in the event that the bird is positive,” said Dr. Ruden. “At this point,” she said, “backyard birdfeeders are not of concern, unless mallards are actively using the feeder. Avian influenza’s impact on upland birds, like wild turkeys, is much less, because of the behaviors and preferred habitats make them less likely to encounter the disease in the wild. Spring turkey hunters can find information on handling and preparing wild turkeys online at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/2015/fsc_hpai_hunters.pdf
Approximately 400 species of birds have been recorded in Iowa, and our friends over at the Basic Birder have anything and everything you need to feed, house, and identify them. There are printed handouts available in the store about the spring birds arriving and the winters birds departing the area right now, and how to take care of them.
If you’re feeling cold and need a dose a spring, stop on in and say hello! The bright colors and sights of spring are good for the soul.