EDIBLE JERSEY KIDS: FOR THE BIRDS

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Not all birds fly south for the winter. Some enjoy the cold season right in your backyard or at a nearby lake. Here are a few New Jersey birds who stay in their home state through frost and snow.

Photographs: Courtesy of New Jersey Audubon Society

DO YOU KNOW ME?

NORTHERN CARDINAL

Diet: Grains. Every now and again a bug. I also crave berries, especially juicy, red, bittersweet berries.

Habits: Singing songs in trees, feeding seeds to my girlfriend and avoiding kestrels.

Melody: “PurDEE PurDEE PurDEE chirp chirp chirp.”Or “chip,” if I’m calling to my girlfriend to see if she’s okay. She answers the same way.

Size: A little over eight inches long, with a wingspan of about a foot.

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE

Diet: I love tasty caterpillars in the summer, but in the winter I eat seeds and berries.

Habits: Being cute, eating from people’s hands (really!), and taking baths in the dust in your mom’s flower garden.

Melody: I have a few, but mostly it’s “chick-adee- dee-dee.” Guess how I got my name!

Size: Just under six inches. My wingspan is just over eight.

CANADA GOOSE

Diet: Mostly grass and seaweed, but I’ve been known to enjoy a fish or a bug from time to time.

Habits: Getting together in groups on golf courses, riverbanks, and big lawns to hang out and eat.

Melody: “Honk.”Or “hiss,” if you get too close.

Size: Up to 43 inches tall, with a wingspan of up to 73 inches (take that, chickadee!)

AMERICAN KESTREL

Diet: I’m a carnivore and gobble up mice, lizards and big bugs.And yes, I eat other birds.What can I say?

Habits: Facing into the wind as I sit on phone wires and fence posts, and hunting.

Melody: Among others, there’s “klee klee klee,” when I’m nervous.

Size: About a foot tall, with about a two-foot wingspan.

GREAT BLUE HERON

Diet: Mostly fish and shellfish, but I’ll eat frogs or bugs too.

Habits: Blending in with the trees near lakes so no one sees me. Standing.Very still.

Melody: “Croak” or “SQUAWWWK.” It isn’t pretty.

Size: I’m the biggest of all North American birds in the heron family—54 inches high, with a wingspan of 79 inches.

HOODED MERGANSER

Diet: It’s all fish and water bugs for me.

Habits: I’m a duck who can see underwater when I dive for fish. And I have this cool way of raising or lowering the hood on my head when I want to impress the girl I like.

Melody: Like a frog. Don’t judge.

Size: About a foot and a half long, with a two-foot wingspan.

STARTING YOUR OWN BIRD BISTRO IN SIX EASY STEPS

It’s not always easy for birds to find food in the winter, especially when snow covers the trees and ground. Be a helpful friend by serving up this tasty treat

  1. Ask a grownup to be your partner.
  2. Go to the hardware store and buy a suet feeder and a bag of black sunflower seeds.
  3. Go to the food store and buy smooth peanut butter, a bag of cornmeal and some shortening.
  4. At home, combine 1 cup peanut butter with 1 cup shortening in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently until the mixture is melted down into a liquid. Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir ½ cup cornmeal and 1 cup sunflower seeds into the mixture, then pour it all into a wide, flatbottomed plastic container. Press it flat with your fingers or with a spoon. Let it cool and it will become solid.
  6. Slice off a piece that will fit your suet feeder, put it in, and hang the feeder from a tree near a window so you can watch the fun.
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