Winter bird feeding is a rewarding season to watch wild birds.
As the cold weather settles in around us, we begin to think of our feathered friends outside.
We know they will be fine; after all, they have survived for thousands of years on their own.
But we can’t help ourselves from wanting to assist them by putting out a bird feeder.
After all, it is harder to find food with snow cover and no new natural sources are being produced at this time of year.
To give them a hand we put out our feeders to help them fuel up their bodies to keep warm.
3 Things You Need to Know About Winter Bird Feeding
If you are going to attract wild birds for winter bird feeding, there are some things to consider. We’ll talk about three elements necessary for winter survival.
- Winter hardy food.
- Providing shelter from the elements.
- Water is also a difficult commodity to find in winter, but a necessity.
1. What are the Best Bird Foods for Successful Winter Bird Feeding?
Suet is the perfect food for cold weather winter bird feeding. With its high-fat content suet offers energy-rich nutrition to help birds keep warm.
It can be served in a specialty suet feeder, crumbled up and placed on a platform feeder, smeared on pine cones, or stuffed into holes in a narrow log.
The addition of suet bird food to the menu of your backyard diner will broaden the number and variety of birds on your bird-watching checklist.
Suet can be purchased in a variety of flavors or mixed at home with peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and for a big protein, boost try an insect packed suet. (You may want to purchase the last kind!)
It should also be mentioned here that not just any fat should be used.
Rendered beef and mutton fat are best. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology bacon contains harmful preservatives that are carcinogenic and can be harmful to birds.
Shortening, butter, margarine, or any other type of manmade fat have the same and other drawbacks for long term bird health.
Black oil sunflower seed is a good staple seed that the greatest variety of birds will eat. Still, it is a good thing to lay out a variety of seed and feeders to provide a well-balanced bird buffet.
A mix of nuts and fruit will provide a well-balanced winter diet. A good diet rich in protein and fat is essential to carry their bodies through the cold winter nights.
Providing such a varied dining opportunity for feathered friends will only enrich your bird watching experience.
2. Wild Bird Shelters
Another vital element to winter survival is shelter. Shelter from freezing cold temperatures and raw winds is important. If shelter is too far away from feeders it will make it more difficult to attract wild birds.
Mature trees and shrubs on your property afford birds a natural source of protection from the cold. Evergreens, with their dense branching and blanket of needles, are excellent for providing refuge. Trees will develop large trunks and sturdy limbs as they mature, to create ideal accommodations for cavity dwellers.
But if mature vegetation does not exist on your property, try some of these suggestions.
- Build a brush pile. This can provide a much-appreciated break from the cold weather.
- Instead of discarding used Christmas trees, put them outside for the birds to shelter in. When the needles have all dried up and fallen off, add it to your brush pile.
- Another solution is to install sheltering roosting boxes that allow many birds to huddle together for warmth. Unlike regular birdhouses, roosting boxes are uniquely designed with the opening at the bottom to reduce heat loss. Roosting boxes also have multiple perches up each side to accommodate lots of little friends. There are no air vents in the top, unlike birdhouses, to keep heat from escaping. When placed five to ten feet from your feeders, the birds can easily make the journey back and forth when the weather is particularly nasty.
- Birdhouses also make good roosting boxes. Leave the old nest in for the colder months, as long as there are no unhatched eggs or dead hatchlings. It is best to plug the air vents just for the winter. In the spring it will be necessary to clean out the house and unplug the air vents.
- Bluebird houses make especially good roosting boxes. Turned upside down so the entrance hole is at the bottom
and plug the air vents. Inside place sticks and twigs for perches.
- A handwoven natural grass roosting pocket can also provide warmth and shelter for those birds that are solitary and like a smaller less crowded spot.
Great satisfaction can be the result of offering bird shelters for winter bird watching.
3. Do Birds Need Water in Winter?
Yes for Bathing and for Drinking
A vital element in your bird-friendly winter yard is a heated birdbath. Birds must have fresh, ice-free water for bathing and drinking year-round. It may be considered by some to be unnecessary as birds will eat snow. But drinking open water means they do not lose as much body heat as when they eat snow.
Birdbaths that have a built-in heating element can be purchased and used all year. Also, a birdbath heater can be placed in an existing birdbath. A heated water bowl for a pet also works very well.
It is safer to purchase a heater or heated bath than it is to attempt to rig up a homemade creation.
The “EZ Tilt Heated Deck Bath” is a good bath to use in the winter. I sold them in my store and they were well-liked. They sell other models as well that are free-standing.
Winter bird feeding can bring a delightful respite and warm up our own experience of weathering the long cold winter season as we watch birds enjoy the bath.
More About Winter Bird Feeding
- Winter Bird Feeding Bird watching in the winter months provides many rewards for us. We
can’t help ourselves from wanting to assist them by putting out a bird
- How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps? It is important to know what needs to be done to make your winter bird feeding efforts successful for your pleasure and for helping birds survive.
- Where are they in Winter? A question often asked is answered: “I have been getting more birds each summer, but why do they still completely disappear each winter?”
- Bird Watching Guide December The first month of the hard winter season is here. This guide provides direction through the busy holiday season to ensure our backyard buddies have the supplies they need to have a good winter.
- Bird Watching Guide January Bird feeding in the depths of January is wonderful to enjoy and a perfect time to plan for the coming year.
- Bird Watching Guide February There are two very important things that happen for wild birds in winter. Learn what they are.
The Other 3 Seasons
- Spring Bird Feeding An exciting time when wild birds return to their northern breeding grounds after their long migration.
- Summer Bird Feeding A very rewarding season to feed and house wild birds. There is such a variety of birdlife and feathered family activity to enjoy.
- Fall Bird Feeding
Some people think that bird feeding in the autumn is not a good idea.
They mistakenly believe that their feeders will keep the birds from
migrating. Find out the truth.