Winter presents challenges for our feathered friends. Take care of the birds this winter, especially during extended periods of below-freezing temperatures.
Providing Winter Food
Providing a variety of foods will meet nutritional needs and attract different species. Seed mixes, seed cakes, black oil sunflower seed, peanuts, thistle and suet (which melts above 70°F) are all easily available.
Feeding with seed and / or suet supplements the natural supply of natural seeds and the few overwintering insects that birds are able to locate.
Native plants, especially those that produce late-season seed and fruit, that birds eat are also an excellent choice. Holly (the female plants produce seeds), cotoneaster, juniper, pyracantha, dogwood, viburnum and sunflowers provide a natural buffet. Note that trees and shrubs also provide habitat for insects, which are a food source.
Feeding won't prevent migratory birds from their instinctive journey. In fact, changes in daylight hours prompt migration, not food availability.
If you start feeding, keep feeding. Birds will become dependent on you. If you stop feeding, they'll most likely leave to find food elsewhere, but don't be surprised if they're reluctant to come back when you do resume feeding.
Using a variety of feeders will attract different types of birds as well. Feeders are made as ground, pole-mounted or tube-type. Shelter the feeder from elements as much as possible, while still maintaining space from shrubs that might harbor predators.
Providing a Water Source
A fresh water supply is just as important, if not more so, in winter than in summer. In addition to food, birds need water in the wintertime, when natural sources may not be available. The simplest way to provide water in colder areas is to add an immersion heater to your existing birdbath. Make sure you use an outdoor use-rated extension cord. Keep the water and bath clean year-round.
Predators are still active in the winter, both the ones that only seek bird food (like squirrels) and the ones that are after the birds themselves. Maintain a safe habitat for birds.