Every family vacation promises a break from the everyday, appreciation for the simple things and the possibility of learning something new.  My husband and I learned, it takes three adults to carry enough toys for one child to have fun at the beach, and milk costs more than a Mai Thai on the island of Maui.  Our three-year-old learned that lemons grow on trees, the ocean tastes salty and the big waves can and will knock you down.  

He also learned the simple joy of bird watching as he helped his grandma fill the birdfeeder every morning.  His fascination and complete focus on watching them and reporting their actions - “Mom, they are not taking turns,” - reminded me that feeding the birds is one of the few things that can be fun in the Maui sunshine and in the Iowa winter.  

Here are some simple tips for creating your own Five Feather Restaurant. 

1)      Outdoor Gourmet -  Not all bird seed is created equal.  Birds look for nutrition.  They like mixes that contain sunflower seed, safflower, nuts and dried fruits for variety.  Finches like Thistle or Nyjer seed for their small beaks.  If you want to keep it simple, you can’t go wrong with Black Oil Sunflower Seed. The fat content of the oil helps birds keep warm in the winter.   

2)      Squeaky Clean - Having the best seed is just part of it.  Birds can be picky and like to eat from clean feeders.  No one likes to eat good food off of dirty dishes.  Clean your feeders at least every other time you fill it. 

3)      In Hot Water - Cold Iowa winters don’t leave a lot of puddles or babbling brooks for birds to get a drink or take a bath.  Keep a bird bath near your feeders and you will see lots of activity.  Buy a bubbler or bird bath heater to keep water from freezing. 

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4)      Turn Over a New Leaf - Many birds like to frequent yards that provide protection in the form of trees, dense shrubs and bushy perennials.  Cardinals, especially, like to hide in dense shrubs in between coming to the feeder.  If you still have your real Christmas tree, put it in the backyard as a winter hide-out.  

5)      Squirreling Around- To Feed the squirrels or not to feed the squirrels.  These cute but pesky critters are very crafty and can find away to get to seeds.  If you like squirrels, provide a peanut feeder, ear corn and add a squirrel feeder to the buffet.  If it’s bird’s only, find a quality squirrel proof feeder.  

Feeding birds provides hours of enjoyment, just remember to put up enough feeders so they don’t have to always take turns.   

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