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Short History of Bird Feeding
December 07, 2015

December 7, 1941.

A date that altered the course of world history.

For the few that may not be familiar, December 7, 1941 was the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

For this reason, I am honored to mention our heros.

It was a time of our greatest generation.

Some of you were children and remember WWII

My dad, uncles and aunt, were part of the Pacific Theater.

History was still fresh as we read and learned about the wars.

(Winners get to write history.)

Today, it is hardly a blip, and seldom mentioned.

I take time to honor all who fought and died.

In Remembrance of "Pearl Harbor Day."

So what else is going on?

Weather has been mild around here.

40's and low 50's.

El nino' is starting off as predicted.

The heat bill is doing just fine right now.

Some snow for Christmas would be nice, however.

Snickers and Keet are officially playmates (more pictures below).

To the point where Keet won't give baby girl a break, and can get a little rough too.

Ziggy the Toy Poodle still growls and shows lots of teeth.

The kids Christmas program was yesterday at church.

I'm head usher and keep busy at church, but never too busy to watch and enjoy a couple of my young grandchildren in the pageant.

All children are a gift to be loved and to enjoy.

This week I'm writing on a topic for the first time.

As the title indicates

The history of 'Feeding Birds'.


People have been feeding birds for a very long time.

Wherever this activity began, it has become a favored pastime for many.

The first written history of bird feeding in America dates back to 1845, when Henry David Thoreau fed birds at Walden Pond (a good read).

In 1926, the first commercially made bird feeder, designed for hummingbirds, went on the market.

According to the 'U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service' today, more than 50 million Americans put out a billion pounds of bird feed each year.

It has been estimated that 1/3 of the adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards.

I personally would like to see more people involved in this hobby.

In Great Britain, the number is as high as 50%.

Bird feeding is an entertaining, educational and inexpensive activity that can be shared by children and adults alike.

It is an excellent form of relaxation and serves to relieve stress.

Bringing nature within our grasp not only connects us to other creatures on our planet, but provides us with the pleasure and satisfaction of helping them survive and thrive, especially when the weather is less than hospitable.

It is also an educational hobby.

Feeding wild birds is an easy hobby to start.

You can accomplish this with a simple window feeder or throw yourself into a larger project and create an outside bird sanctuary.

The level of involvement, time and money you wish to spend is up to you and what you can afford.

Go with either Black Oil Sunflower Seed or Premium Wild Bird Seed Mix to attract a wide variety of bird species, or whichever specialty blend suits your needs based on the birds you wish to attract.

Start out with Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, this attracts the most variety and desired songbirds.

Start small and go from there.

Later on, you may choose to add a finch feeder filled with Nyjer seed.

Offer suet and raw shelled peanuts in special feeders.

Toss cracked corn and millet on the ground (under shrubs) for the many ground feeding birds.

It is a wonderful way to reconnect with the world in which we live and some of its most beautiful and interesting inhabitants, birds.

Backyard bird feeding is by far the most popular form of bird watching.

Through the first couple of decades of the twentieth century, the food offered to birds was “mostly extra bits from the home larder, leftovers from the dinner table, and waste seeds and grains from threshing and storage.

Early feeders were cobbled together from scrap materials around the house.

Much like my first makeshift platform feeder I started out with.

These “bird shelves” and “bird tables” were often attached to windowsills or placed on rocks or a tree stump.

Bird feeders evolved quickly, with the still-familiar hopper style appearing by the 1910s, when ads for commercially produced feeders started to appear.

One such ad, from a 1913 issue of Bird-Lore (the predecessor of Audubon magazine), depicts a weather-vane style feeder that wouldn’t look all that out of place in a backyard today.

In the first half of the twentieth century, one of the most popular seeds was hemp.

Yep, Mary Jane, Marijuana, Wildwood Weed.

Although birds really like it, I don’t think you could get by with that in most places today.

Can you imagine this?

"Honest, Mr. policeman, I’m growing it for the birds."

Some other items were conspicuous in their absence.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that two staple seeds of modern bird feeding.

Black Oil Sunflower and Nyjer seed came into widespread use.

Other foods in today’s feeders may seem like new entrees, but in fact have only been “rediscovered” recently.

Peanuts and mealworms, for example, were mentioned in bird-feeding books at the turn of the twentieth century.

The modern bird feeding industry was born in the 1970s.

By the 1980s, Americans had ever more choices in bird foods and feeders, especially with the opening of the first wild bird specialty stores.

The twenty-first century thus far has not seen the introduction of new foods or new types of feeders, but there have been continuous refinements and improvements.

New seed blends have been made available, and there has been a proliferation of anti-squirrel devices.

What, how, where, even when we feed has changed dramatically over the decades.

But the most interesting changes have to do with the reasons we continue to supply the birds with seeds and suet.

One of the earliest justifications was economic, a factor especially enticing to farmers, who greatly appreciated the birds’ pest- and weed-control services.

Hardly anyone feeds birds for that reason today, but the sales of bird-related products and the money spent on bird-related travel are still invoked in the attempt to convince the powers that be to embrace conservation.

Of course, there is the aesthetic motivation, still as strong today as it was when the first person threw out the first bread crumbs and tied up wheat heads to hang for the birds to feed on.

There’s not a lawn ornament made that can match the beauty of a Northern Cardinal.

Another persistent drive is the desire to help birds.

The real issue is the decline in habitat.

Lack of habitat means a lack of breeding and the natural food to sustain them.

Ironically, this desire to save them by putting out feeders may be keeping birds from getting the kind of help they really need.

Bird feeding enthusiasts may feel that they have “done their duty” and thus don’t need to do anything else in support of bird conservation.

But only a small percentage of bird species will ever come to a feeder.

The vast majority that are in need of help are dependent on conservation programs run by government agencies with limited resources.

Until then, keep feeding the birds.

Enjoy your little corner of nature.

Get kids and grandkids involved.

There is your little bit of history for the day.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the day.

God Bless.

"Birds have wings; they're free; they can fly where they want when they want.
They have the kind of mobility many people envy".

Roger Tory Peterson

The late and great father of modern ornithology pegged me to a T.

"Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Matthew 6:26

How much more valuable are you?

"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you".

Matthew 7:7

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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