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Winter is the ideal time for bird-watching
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Spotting and identifying the different birds in the Northeast Georgia landscape can be exciting and educational. So grab a pair of binoculars and see how many you can identify.

One of the best ways to attract the diverse feathered friends is by creating a backyard shelter for protection and stocked with food.

To create a shelter, use a leftover Christmas tree or a brush pile full of twigs and limbs. While evergreens provide color to the landscape, they provide shelter for birds and other small wildlife in the winter as well as protect them from their enemies.

Next, add shrubs full of berries for a colorful backyard setting. The hungry American robin will thank you for planting beautiful winterberry, chokeberry and serviceberry shrubs. Then you will have the perfect scenery for watching birds.

After the shelter is provided, supplying food and water for birds may really make a difference. When cold weather along with ice and a little snow hits, food can be scarce for our feathered friends.

That means we need to find creative ways to supply the birds with sufficient food. Birds that do not migrate to warmer climates will appreciate a high-calorie food mix, loaded with fatty black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts or suet.

Cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches love sunflower seeds. The showy red northern cardinals also supplement their diets with insects.

Woodpeckers will be thankful for a steady source of suet. Blue jays are also homebodies and love peanuts.

Sprinkle white millet in and around bushes in your yard just before dark and enjoy watching some backyard chaos as different ground feeding birds enjoy a meal.

Look for pairs of cardinals. If you spot a male, chances are the female is around singing her songs. Also, look for woodpeckers, finches, titmice and towhee. Their colors stand out in the winter landscape.

If you have bird feeders, fill them with birdseed just before dark, so the cold, hungry birds will have a meal waiting at the first morning light.

Children really enjoy creating bird feeders using pine cones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed. Hang them in a tree or bush where children can easily watch the birds feed through a window or door. Also, the birds will be happy to have a high-energy treat.

Give a gardening friend a bird feeder and birdseed. They make excellent holiday gifts to enjoy all through the year.

And don’t forget the water.

In the cold months, create birdbaths. Even though it may give you the shivers to see them splashing away in the cold, the activity actually helps the birds stay warm.

Birds also need open water to drink, as many water sources may be frozen. Refilling a birdbath with warm water in the morning or actually investing in a heated birdbath may be the way to go if you enjoy bird-watching.

For any advice regarding bird-watching, remember the University Cooperative Extension offices can help. Give us a call or email your questions.

Happy Holidays!

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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