As a youth growing up in Sleepy Hollow, Jim McGrath would watch the birds visiting the feeders in his family's yard.
He went on to become a wildlife biologist and interpretive naturalist and founded Nature Discovery in his current hometown of Williamston, Mich. The educational organization teaches appreciation for biodiversity.
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On Saturday, McGrath brought his experience to the Elgin Public Museum, giving a presentation titled "Ultimate Winter Bird Feeding Station" to 15 serious bird enthusiasts who wanted to learn the proper ways to attract and maintain feathered patrons in their yards.
McGrath, who has taught other popular programs at the museum, described this presentation as "taking your bird feeding more seriously to attract more abundance and diversity of birds."
McGrath told the audience to treat feeding stations like a restaurant. The keys to success are to always be "open," meaning keeping the feeders full on a daily basis; offer a fine menu (knowing the proper seeds to attract certain species); make sure patrons are comfortable by providing natural cover from the elements or predators, especially during wintertime; and to place your feeders near a window you frequent for your viewing pleasure.
"For your effort, get those feeders as close to the windows as possible. The birds will get used to it and it's almost like having them in the house with you when the birds land only a foot or two outside your window."
McGrath shared photos and diagrams of bird species common in the area, their behaviors, as well as their seed and feeder-type preferences. Sunflower seeds are a favorite to most birds. Mixed seeds are often comprised of fillers like rolled oats, milo and flax; the birds will pick out the sunflower seeds, then abandon your feeder, he warned.