Bird watching and feeding birds in winter

#FlashbackFriday This was originally published in January 2010

Mark Berres, assistant professor, avian biology
UW-Madison, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
(608) 890-1086

Total time – 3:09 minutes

0:19     How large is this activity around the country
0:34     What are the economics of this activity
0:52     What are some of the birds we might expect to find in Wisconsin
1:18     Tips for feeding birds in winter
2:27     Is it a good thing to feed birds through the winter
2:58     End


Sevie Kenyon: This is Sevie Kenyon with the University of Wisconsin-Extension at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We’re visiting today with Mark Berres, professor of avian biology in the Department of Animal Sciences here and the topic today is feeding birds. Mark welcome to our microphone and can you tell us perhaps how large this activity is around the country?

Mark Berres: Bird-watching in general across the United States really captures the interest of around probably 48-50 million people.

Sevie Kenyon: Do you have any idea what the economics of this activity may be?

Mark Berres: Upwards of $36 billion in total direct expenditures. These are things like binoculars, cameras, bird food and even travel things like that.

Sevie Kenyon: What are some of the birds we might expect to find in Wisconsin?

Mark Berres: In the winter time we actually have quite a few resident species of birds here in Wisconsin. Some of the most common ones include birds like the black capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, American bullfinch, a large variety of woodpeckers including the Downy, the Hairy and Red-bellied woodpeckers.

Sevie Kenyon: If you’re interested in feeding these species here through the winter, do you have any tips for people?

Mark Berres: My recommendation really would be to purchase a bird feeder that has been made from a really sturdy material; cedar is great. For the birds that we have around here really is to feed black oiled sunflower seed. Another very common and very appreciated birdseed is the simple wild bird food, the key being that there is a variety of seed sizes. The more variety of seeds that you have available will translate into a wider variety of birds that will actually be coming to your feeder. Suet cakes are an excellent means by which to attract woodpeckers. People often overlook the importance of water. If you have a birdbath you can purchase a water immersion heater that will keep the water free of ice and you will be really surprised at the further increase at the number of birds you have coming in.

Sevie Kenyon: Is it a good thing to feed birds through the winter?

Mark Berres: Yes, it is an excellent thing to do. There has really been no evidence that feeding birds is going to disrupt any of their behavior. They’re going to go where the food is and if, for example, if you’re out on vacation and your bird feeder runs dry, don’t worry about it, they’ve been doing this a lot longer than we ever have. They’ll be able to survive.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting today with Mark Berres, avian biologist in the Department of Animal Science and I’m Sevie Kenyon with University of Wisconsin-Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin.

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