Now that it is almost Christmas, you will hear the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” created in about 16th century England. This song has more birds in it than any other holiday song. You know, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree.” The second day involves “two turtle doves”, then come three “French Hens” (probably just regular chickens), and then four “calling birds.” Actually, the song originally referred to “colly birds”, colly meaning ‘black as coal’ and probably originally referred to blackbirds baked in a pie. Then on the fifth day come “five golden rings”, which actually refer to the Ring-necked Pheasant. On the sixth day arrive “Six geese-a-laying” most likely referring to the Graylag Goose, the ancestor of our domestic geese and the “Seven Swans-a-swimming” to the Mute Swan. At the end of the song, if you do the math, there will be 12 partridges, 22 doves, 30 hens, 36 blackbirds, 40 pheasants, 42 geese, and 42 swans; or something like that.
The holiday season brings cold weather and we think about filling our bird feeders. Feeders should be located out of the wind. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area and provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators and shelter from the wind and weather. The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger. For ground feeding, an area near cover with a clear view of the surroundings is desirable. Don’t worry if you have to leave for a few days or a week. Birds have several sources of food and if your feeder runs dry, the birds will do just fine until you return
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Birds benefit from bird feeders but they need much more as they are in decline. Many environmental and educational organizations deserve our support to help conserve the environment not only for birds, but for all animals and plant life. The American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International, The Audubon Society, and organizations that help protect habitat such as the Nature Conservancy need our help. We need to put aside land for habitat, support policies of intelligent land and water use, elect politicians who can make forward-looking decisions, and educate our children on the importance of the environment.
There are many other needy organizations and individuals that do wonderful work and help our homeless, children, elderly, the disabled, domestic animals, and our schools. No matter your status, there are always those needier than you. If not money, donate your time and skills. My wife and I contribute a good deal of money each year to these kinds of non-profits.