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Pa. woman puts heart into feeding the flock

February 02, 2000

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

Photo by RIC DUGAN / Staff Photographer




LEMASTERS, Pa. - Phyllis Snider has learned so much about birds from feeding them in her back yard for the last 25 years that she is now considered to be an expert of sorts on the subject.

She's even asked to give seminars and lectures. "She's on the local talk show circuit," said her daughter, Susan.

Snider, whose family owns Snider's Elevator Inc. in Lemasters, said in any given year thousands of birds show up at the feeders in the back yard of her Williamson, Pa., home. She's learned which birds like which foods best.

"You don't have to buy an expensive bird feeder or the most expensive food, you just have to learn how to experiment to have a wonderful time with the hobby," she said.

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Snider knows, for example, that the cardinal's favorite fare is a mix of sunflower and safflower seeds and cracked corn. They also are wary of feeders that are not open on all sides, Snider said. "They are intelligent and they're afraid to go into any feeder where they can get trapped."

As for finches - house, purple and the beautiful American golden whose plumage turns dull brown in winter - Snider puts out a combination of thistle and other seeds. "It's like filet mignon to them," she said.

Mostly Snider fills her half-dozen feeders with a general mix that draws species common to the area this time of year.

"There are 30 to 35 different kinds of birds at my feeders right now," she said. "I woke up before dawn this morning and the cardinals and doves were already out there."

In the summer she enjoys her breakfast on the back porch in the company of hummingbirds, she said.

Her list of regular visitors is lengthy: The cardinal, finch, dove, sparrow, chickadee, nuthatch, woodpecker, blue jay, tufted titmouse, junco, grackle, starling, cowbird and evening and redbreasted grosbeaks.

She also puts out special foods such as raw peanuts for blue jays and suet for chickadees and woodpeckers. Special foods have been designed by manufacturers for different species. A special food available on store shelves for woodpeckers contains shelled peanuts, tree nuts, sunflower kernels, whole corn, dehydrated cherries and raisins and shelled pumpkin.

"They research these things," she said.

It costs about $100 to buy a good quality bird feeder and keep it stocked all winter, Snider said.

She also makes sure her birds have an adequate water supply every day. An upturned garbage can lid makes a good container, and heaters can be bought to keep the water from freezing, she said.

Snider brought birdseed, feeders and other bird feeding supplies into the family business about 25 years ago when it was still in Williamson. She did it over the objections of her husband, William. "He said it was foolish, that they would never sell," she said.

Today a whole side of the store is dedicated to bird-feeding merchandise.

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