Feathered Friends: If You Feed Them They Will Come

January 23, 2015 by  
Filed under Answers and Tips, Birds, Garden Creatures

Brighten up the dreary days of winter by drawing beautiful birds to your yard.

As winter approaches and the natural food supply for birds dwindles, our feathered friends rely on our generosity to survive the short days, freezing temperatures, and severe wind chill.  The natural food supply birds need to provide energy to keep warm has been consumed or hidden by snow.  Most insects are dead or dormant, water can be hard to find, and finding shelter may not be easy.  If there are limited evergreens or shelter, birds may seek manmade houses or habitats that can provide refuge from the winds, rains, ice or snow of winter.



Providing Food For Birds

In order to maintain their body temperature, birds have to keep up their high metabolic rate by eating rich energy foods such as seeds, insects, and suet.  Providing high calorie and high fat foods can be important to the birds.

Of course birds will love any good mixed seed, but black oil sunflower is the hamburger of the bird world.  The kernel inside the shell is larger than the kernel inside a white or gray striped sunflower seed.  Plus, the shell is thinner and easier to crack.  Suet is a great food to offer many of the birds that will visit backyards in the winter.  Suet is a high energy, pure fat substance that is invaluable in the winter when insects are harder to find, and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm.  Peanuts are another great food to offer birds in the wintertime.  Peanuts (de-shelled, dry-roasted, unsalted) have high protein and fat levels and are often an ingredient in suet products.  They are a great source of protein for birds.

Feeders should be located out of the wind.  The east or southeast side of a house or near trees is ideal.  It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or a tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area and provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators and shelter from the weather.  The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger.

Providing Water For Birds

Birds do need water in the winter, and they appreciate open, available water.  Especially when ponds and streams are frozen.  You can help birds find water by providing an open source of water.

Birdbaths with heating elements built into the bowl will prevent the whole bath from freezing.  In extremely cold weather, some ice may form around the edges, but there will be some open water at least in the middle, and the birds go right for it.  The advantages of a built-in heater are the cords are concealed, and the heater cannot fall out of the bath and let the water freeze.

If you already have a birdbath that you like, but it doesn’t keep the water from freezing in the winter, you can add a de-icer, a heating element that sits down in the basin.  It’s not quite as convenient as a bath with a built-in heater, but it is an economical way to transform your present bath into something that will function in the winter.  We recommend purchasing one with a thermostat, so the heat is on only when necessary to keep the water from freezing.

Providing Shelter For Birds

In addition to weather, shelter is needed for protection against predators of birds.  There are many ways to provide safe shelter, and providing that shelter will help attract birds.

Roost boxes and birdhouses provide secure, comfortable shelter for different types of birds.  Positioning shelters facing south will take advantage of heat from the winter sun, and painting the shelters dark colors will absorb the most heat.  Be sure to clean out old nests from houses to help reduce the possibility of parasitic bugs surviving the winter.  It also allows the birds the opportunity to roost in a clean house.

Providing evergreen trees and shrubs can offer birds a safe place to escape the elements as well.  It is an easy and natural way to provide birds with winter shelter.  Many of these plants will also provide seeds, nuts, or berries that can be a natural food source for wintering birds.  We suggest you prune landscaping in the spring rather than the fall so birds can take advantage of extra insulated spaces and natural cover throughout the winter.

Attracting birds to your yard is really quite simple.  By providing winter birds with three basic needs (food, water, and shelter), you will be able to transform a lonely winter wasteland into a happy habitat full of beautiful birds.  Basically, if you feed them they will come!

Now that’s ‘advice you can grow with’!