Caring for Wild Birds During the Winter Months

As the winter carries on resources become increasingly scarce for many local bird populations. However, there are still many birds that will stay local if they have some food and shelter to survive. You can still provide some supplemental food resources that will give local birds the ability to store fat and preserve body heat until spring! I have provided some healthy tips that may assist you in contributing to your environment by providing food for your local birds. Enjoy their continued presence the weather warms, providing vibrant life, color and protection for your garden.

What To Look For

Bird feeders and feed cages that suit birds native to your region
Seeds high in fat and protein that will protect birds during the cold winter months such as: black-oil sunflower seed, thistle seed, shelled peanuts, cracked corn, or white millet.

Healthy Tips

Consider purchasing an encyclopedia or book of birds native to your area so you can provide the kinds of feeders and seeds throughout the year
Keep your bird feeder well-stocked through the winter with seeds containing the fat and protein needed for the bird species native to your area.
You can also add a food supplement called suet (hardened beef fat mixed with nuts, seeds or fruit) to your feeders.
Avoid feeding birds breadcrumbs as it will fill them up but doesn’t have the nutrients birds will need to stay warm and survive the cold.
Keep your feeders in areas away from harsh winds and make sure the sunlight can reach their location.
Check your bird feeder more frequently than you would in warmer weather to make sure it does not get moldy and stagnant.
Consider investing in a squirrel-proof cage to place your bird seed in if you want to keep other wildlife away from the birds you are trying to attract.
You can also place nest boxes in various shrubs and trees around the garden to attract birds. Even if they do not stay there, birds will come back to use these protected areas as song posts.
Keep your bird feeders, tables and fountains cleaned, using a mild disinfectant, to prevent mold growth and disease.
If you move your feeders around from time to time, it also helps keep predatory animals such as squirrels, rats and mice away from the seed you intend for the birds.
Keep water in a tray or bird bath (check and break ice if it freezes during the day) as birds use it for insulating their feathers as well as for drinking. (Note: this is good even in areas with a lot of snow as birds who eat snow will need much more energy to bring their body temperatures back up from the cold.)
As you place seed in your feeder, sprinkle some cracked corn or white millet onto the ground for birds that look for their food closer to the ground to enjoy.
A small bulb can act as a light and source of warmth for birdbaths.
Keep the feeding stations you place in trees between 10 – 20 feet off the ground so birds can access their food while staying protected from cats and other predators.
Consider planting shrubs and evergreen plants in areas you wish to attract birds to as these areas provide the shelter necessary to make birds want to stay nearby.

Pat Mulford •