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Published: Thursday, 6/7/2007

Tips for Summer Bird Feeding

(ARA) - Wild birds are beautiful, graceful and intriguing. Starting your adventure into bird watching can be easily done by learning about feeding birds in your own backyard. Because summertime is one of the most active times for North American birds, this is an ideal time to learn about birds' feeding habits.

A great place for a new bird enthusiast to start is by feeding finches. Their colors are stunning, ranging from the rosy blush of the House Finch and Purple Finch to the bright yellow hue of the popular American Goldfinch. They're delightful to listen to, as their beautiful warbling and trills ring through the air loud and often. Best of all, they're virtually everywhere, feeding and singing throughout most of the United States.

In this country, we are most familiar with the American Goldfinch because of their large numbers at feeders, their continent-wide range and their bright yellow color. However, there are other attributes that add to the Goldfinch's appeal. For one, Goldfinches have great manners. A group of Goldfinches can crack seeds together with great contentment with barely a flash of their wings. Goldfinches also have excellent hygiene. They are very fond of bird baths and water features.

Not all finches started off as the free flying coast-to-coast birds of color that we know and love today. Fifty years ago, the common House Finch was a bird prevalent in California and known as the linnet. People began to sell them, illegally, as a caged bird to East Coast pet shops (hence the domestic-sounding name). When the government stepped in, owners of these "illegal finches" on the East Coast began releasing them into the open sky. These House Finches adapted to their new surroundings and their population grew, quickly expanding westward across the plains.

Finches can build to huge numbers at feeding stations, creating quite a spectacle. According to the WBFI, a non-profit trade association for the wild bird feeding industry, it's important to prepare the proper menu to attract finches as outdoor pets. Experts recommend looking for foods that are clean and feature premium nuts and seeds.

Another little-known finch fact: some wild finches have even "joined" a group called "winter finches" -- a classification which includes Purple Finches, Common Redpolls and Red Crossbills, to name a few. While many finches stay in the lower 48 states year-round, these groups of nomadic finches generally make their homes in the northern forests. What makes flocks of winter finches so unique is that some winters -- but not every winter -- they will unexpectedly travel south, even as far as Texas, to feed and breed. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as an "irruption." On occasion, large flocks will irrupt simultaneously, treating lucky viewers to the spectacle of a superflight, where multiple kinds of winter finches appear in masses in southern areas where they are not usually seen. Courtesy of ARA content

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