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Long winter hard on wild birds, feeding encouraged

UNDATED (WXPR) -- A DNR wildlife biologist says birds arrive early in spring to find the best nesting spots, but are really clobbered by late snowstorms.

Jeremy Holtz says as the birds return north from their winter habitat they arrive here without much left in reserve.  "This is a perilous time of year for birds. Not only have they had to brave a long and difficult migration, but they've had to expend fat reserves so they could fly day and night to get up to the breeding grounds and get the choice habitat. Then when they get here the food is very scarce or extremely limited. In some cases there might not be any at all."

He says feeding can be helpful, especially if you use the right bird food.  "Something that has a lot of thistle or sunflower seed in it. When you put out a lot of millet the birds seem happy and they're throwing it all over the place, but in fact, not very many birds prefer the millet in the food. Mourning Doves love it, but if you really want to do some good, put something out that has a high fat content like thistle seed or sunflower seed."

Holtz says suet blocks are important for insect­ eating birds like woodpeckers and chickadees. He says with the return of deep snow in the Northwoods, the birds have a difficult time getting through the snow to find food.