February is National Bird Feeding Month. Bird watchers all over enjoy watching and listening to the birds in the summer, but what do you do to help them in the winter? Birds have small bodies which makes it difficult for them to stay warm in the winter. Add to the lack of shelter some birds endure, and you can see why they need our help in the cold and snow!
A lot of birds are migratory, but a lot of birds also stay put in the winter. They depend on many factors to help them through the cold months, food and water being just 2 of them. They can only forage for so much, and cold temperatures cause them to need to eat more food to maintain their body temperature. Bugs and insects are part of their normal diet but they are hard to come by in cold weather. Leftover berries, seeds and nuts from the summer are a food source, but once that runs out or is buried in snow, the birds need to find other sources of food. That’s where we can help! Feeders are crucial for birds. In the winter feeders won’t be plundered by bears, so it’s safe to put them out. But different kinds of birds need different kinds of seed, which can require different kinds of feeders.
For example, if you know your yard is frequented by chickadees or nuthatches, cardinals or woodpeckers, black sunflower seeds are a great choice. If you have blue jays, sparrows, magpies or finches, peanuts will be a great choice….just keep it away from the squirrels or the birds will never get a chance to eat! Corn, Nyger Seed and safflower seeds are other great choices. Each type of seed generally requires a special feeder though, so if you have space for 2 feeders, try 2 different types of seeds and see who shows up!
Water sources are also important for birds. Water freezes so easily in cold temps and birds can’t always wait for it to thaw to drink. Try providing a heated birdbath for them. There are solar water feeders available too.
Birds also benefit from eating fat. Try smearing some peanut butter on an old cardboard tube from paper towels or toilet paper, then roll it in seeds. Place it on a branch. Pinecones or leftover toast can be used too! Or save leftover fat from cooking bacon, mix it up with seeds and hang it in a suet feeder for the birds to eat. When the winter is done, take the suet feeder, and fill it with pieces of string, yarn or even leftover fuzz from the dryer and hang it for the birds to line their nests with in the spring!