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Winter Feeding For Wild Birds

28 13:25:43
Filling a winter feeder with wild bird seed can help our fine-feathered friends survive the season. Birds are warm-blooded, which means that they need a steady supply of high-energy foods to maintain their core temperature. In the winter months their usual food sources of insects, fruits and nuts can become difficult to find, as most insects die or become dormant, trees cease producing and nuts and berries are frozen or obscured by snow.

Backyard birds that spend the winter at home vary by region. Depending on where you live you may see finches, sparrows, juncos, quail, pheasant, mourning doves, chickadees or robins. Providing a variety of bird food in sheltered feeders can also make bird watching a breeze, helping to bring a little bit of spring into the house even when nature is sleeping.

Choosing a Feeder

The first step is to survey your space. You'll want to install the feeder where it will be accessible but still sheltered from the weather and predators. An eastern or southerly prospect out of the wind is preferable. Hang or mount the feeder in an open place near cover so that the birds can watch for predators and retreat from them if necessary. Evergreen hedges or trees work well. Feeders built with wide eaves to shelter the perches protect both birds and seed from the elements. While large feeders may seem more practical because they need to be filled less often, they can easily become corrupted by the elements. Check feeders often. Clean them and remove any wet or frozen seed. Always install feeders at least six feet from walls or enclosed porches to prevent window crashers. You may want to use window clings or sun catchers to discourage birds from flying into the glass.

What to Feed

When choosing wild bird seed for winter feeding, several choices stand above the rest. Most common feeds are made up of millet mixed with other seeds and nuts and are perfectly adequate for summer feeding. In the winter, you may want to supplement standard birdseed with other, more nutritious bird food. Black oil sunflower seeds have a higher fat content than normal striped sunflower seeds. Another good option is suet. Suet is calorie-dense and packs a serious punch for keeping birds warm in the wintertime. Buy it in blocks studded with seeds and hang it in a cage feeder to discourage raiding by pests. Peanuts and peanut butter are high in fat and protein. You can also get creative by hanging fruit, bread or popcorn from lines and stringing them in the trees. Never feed salty snacks intended for human consumption to birds.

Water, Water Everywhere

During the winter months much of the available water is tied up in frozen, undrinkable forms of precipitation. As a consequence, many birds may have difficulty in finding sufficient water. Birdbaths equipped with heaters or safe, submersible heating elements can fill this void. A heated pet dish is another option. Place water sources near feeders so birds will become aware of them when they come to feed.

Squirrels and other critters are often hungry in the wintertime as well. Install feeders out of jumping reach or protect them with fencing and consider scattering dried seed corn or peanuts in the shell to discourage squirrels from raiding your bird feeders.