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For the Joy of Birds: Winter Birding in the Treasure Valley

By: Anni Jack, Adult Education Coordinator, Photographs by Cory Berish | 01/03/2022

Though I do not spend time photographing birds as many of my friends do, I know I would miss their color and song as winter wears on.

They bring joy as they balance and nibble on dried rudbeckia seed heads or sit in the snowy branches of a crabapple tree enjoying fruit that patiently held on.

(Pictured: Waxwing)

Birds are important and beneficial for us in many ways!  They are:

Pest control – for crops and beyond

Pollinators – birds favor sight over smell and pollinate plants other pollinators miss

Cleaners – do we want to imagine life without scavenger birds?

Seed dispersers – aiding in germination, it benefits the life cycle of many plants 

Fertilizers – guano is full of nutrients and feeds seascapes, including coral reefs

Warning systems – for environmental stresses

(Pictured: Kestrel)

Unfortunately, we have lost at least 30% of the North American bird population since 1970, according to Science.org.  Efforts are continuing to be made to understand and change that trend. 

The Audubon Society has held the Christmas Bird Count since 1900 to follow trends in bird population and distribution with the help of citizen scientists (YOU!).  The Count ends on January 5th, National Bird Day.

You can sign up for Audubon’s Community Science here: 

Sign Up Here!

Follow the interactive bird tracker here:

Bird Tracker!

You can also participate in your own backyard bird count through April with Cornell Lab’s Project Feeder Watch:

Learn More Here! 

Stay cozy in the warmth of your home with this bird count project and observe birds through your home windows. Have fun promoting the health and population of winter birds in your own backyard!

(Pictured: Finch)

Our family has loved turning our Christmas trees and winter wreaths into bird feeders after December. 

We enjoy making berry garland and seed-filled ornaments hanging from natural twine.  Winter birds need nutrient rich foods, especially in our cold winter climate, so focusing on seeds and suet feeders is a good idea. 

Orange slices and cranberry garlands are welcome additions, especially for color – remember that birds are attracted to sight over smell.  Try making pinecones covered in seeds over peanut butter as a tasty, filling bird treat.

The Spruce has a great recipe here:

Recipe Here! 

I hope that you enjoy the process in making winter bird food, being part of Audubon’s bird count, or simply observing and connecting with nature this snowy winter.  Happy January!

If you would like to learn more regarding our Treasure Valley birds, The City of Boise has a great field guide found here:

Field Guide! 

(Pictured: Song Sparrow)