3 Keys to Successful Iowa Winter Bird Watching

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GRANGER, Iowa -- It has been frigid in Iowa so far in January. There have not been a lot of opportunities to get out and enjoy nature but here is a way to make the most of it without leaving your couch -- birdwatching.

“People are cooped up in the house and they want some connection with the outdoors,” said Joe Boyles, Polk County Conservation. “Bird feeding gives them that without having to leave the house.”

Boyles is a naturalist and has been with Polk County Conservation for almost two decades. He says that one of the bigger reasons January is so popular for bird watching is food supply.

“It’s more difficult for birds for find food during the winter,” said Boyles. “They can find food on their own but they won’t turn down an easy and reliable food source.”

Boyles has the following tips on how to successfully stock for your favorite feathered friends.

Mind Your Feed

“Can you provide a clean, steady food source? If you can you’ll have a busy feeder,” said Boyles. “Sunflower seed is going to be the first choice for birds. Most birds will eat that. It is high in nutritional quality. The mixes are a little less expensive and you’ll attract a wide variety of bird. With those though, check the ingredients. Make sure it doesn’t have Milo. If it does you will have a lot of waste. Then the safflower seed is a good seed to use if you are having a problem with squirrels or nuisance birds.”

Don’t Spend Too Much

“If you have a couple a feeders out, you’ll spend $5 a week,” said Boyles. “You can put as little or as much money into it as you’d like. Birds aren’t picky what the feeder looks like. You can throw it on the ground, if you’d like. You can build a good feeder at home and it will cost less than $10 and you could do it in 30 minutes of time.”

Water

“If you can provide a heated bird bath, you’ll attract more birds with that than with feed,” said Boyles. “Water is one of the requirements of all life. In winter, it’s harder for birds to find fresh water. They need it daily. They can eat snow but it takes a lot of energy. It also helps with cleaning. If they can clean their feathers they will stay warmer.”