As we embrace the changing season with decorations and our favorite festive traditions, let’s remember to take extra care of our feathered friends who will be relying on scarce food supplies.
According to Audubon Magazine, more than a hundred bird species supplement their natural diets with food offered at feeders. They often rely most heavily on feeders in winter, when food is scarce.
Showing your appreciation for our natural world this winter is easy and good for the soul. The National Wildlife Foundation has ten ideas for keeping your winter birds fed:
- Put out feeders with good size capacity, and/or use multiple feeders to provide ample food especially during snow and ice storms.
- Provide nutritious winter seed foods - for most birds these often include seed mixes of black oil sunflower seed, hulled peanuts, nyjer seed and white millet seed.
- Offer fatty food too; birds need to burn more calories in the winter just to stay warm. Suet is considered a high energy food because it consists of fat that has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein. Peanut Butter is also popular with our flying friends but is more expensive than suet. Suet feeders are a favorite of woodpeckers and other insect-eating birds.
- Keep your feeders full! Winter birds need to stock up on calories especially for those long, cold winter nights.
- Be consistent and keep feeding through the winter. Birds grow accustomed to your feeders especially in severe weather when the snacks you offer may mean their very survival.
- Remember water. Birds can become dehydrated in winter even if surrounded by ice and snow. Putting out a pan of water near the feeder on warmer days is a terrific idea.
- Tamp down the snow below. Ground-feeding birds such as dark-eyed juncos, doves and many sparrows will be able to gather up the seed that drop from the feeders if they don’t have deep snow to try to manage.
- Hang feeders in cat-safe locations. Place bird feeders in locations that do not also offer hiding places for sneak-attacks by cats and other predators.
- Remember feeder cleanliness, your feeders can get a little grimy. Because natural food sources are scarcer in the winter, more birds may be attracted to backyard feeders and those feeders will need to be cleaned with some hot water and dried a few times during the season.
- Save some money and stock up on seed. Bird feeding veterans say it is best to stock up on birdseed in the fall. Stored properly, (in cool dry places) seed can easily last for months, particularly seed mixes and sunflower seeds.