The birds have been especially active since we had the big snow on Saturday. They've been going through the sunflower seed, mixed seeds, thistle and suet at a fast clip. But we have noticed that many of the birds are still picking away at the leftover seeds in the garden.
Wrens, sparrows and chickadees are still gleaning from the autumn blooming clematis vine that is draped across a large section of fence. The butterfly bush, phlox and sedums still seem to have a little left for the tufted titmice and junkos to harvest. Holly berries and dogwood fruits are popular with the cedar wax wings and cardinals. And all of them seem to enjoy the stray sea oats that have self seeded in a small corner of the garden.
We spend a few hundred dollars every winter on feeding the birds. And I'm sure the little heater we use to keep the bird bath from freezing costs a bit to run. By leaving seed producing plants standing through the winter, rather than cutting them back (which gives a neater appearance), we are able to augment and diversify the birds' diet. And perhaps it reduces the cost a tad. The birds return the favor by keeping insect populations in check and helping with pollination later in the year.
Of course there are issues with feeding birds - they are subject to predatory cats and hawks; dirty feeders and bird baths can spread disease and bird droppings can be messy. But the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Feeding birds in the backyard is a pretty green activity - especially if you buy locally-grown seed. And it's even more green, as well as frugal, to grow lots of bird-friendly plants that will produce plenty of seed to feed our hungry feathered friends.