Feeding Birds in Winter
In the winter when there may be extended periods of snow and ice on the ground, you may be surprised to learn what a huge difference you can make by feeding wild birds right outside your own door or window. A large-scale winter storm, with deep snow or ice cover, cuts off many birds from their natural food supplies and can actually cause them to starve. Backyard bird feeding can make a real contribution to their survival and even allow them to thrive during the winter months.
Here are a few pointers for a successful winter bird feeding season:
1) Put out feeders with good size capacity – And/or use multiple feeders to provide ample food especially during snow and ice storms.
2) Provide nutritious winter seed foods – For most birds theses often include seed mixes of black oil sunflower seed, hulled peanuts, niger seed and white millet seed.
3) 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 nine calories per gram compared to four 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.
4) Keep your feeders full – Winter birds need to stock up on calories especially for those long, cold winter nights.
5) 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.
6) Stamp 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.
7) Landscape with native plantings to create a natural habitat – Choosing a variety of shrubs and trees will furnish food, water, shelter and birthing places for wild birds.