As we approach winter birds will begin searching for winter for resources as early as September that will get them by during the cold snowy season. They will identify numerous natural food plots not relying on a single food source that could become depleted or covered with snow. As birds identify those valuable winter food plots they will also identify well stocked backyard bird feeders as a place to get an easy meal. So be sure to keep your bird feeders filled through the fall, even if the number of bird visits declines as they take advantage of the abundant autumn harvest of natural foods that are now available. They will return to the feeders in mass when the cold and snow arrives. Here are a few other tips about feeding birds in the winter:
What Foods Do Birds Like?
Due to frigid temperatures, birds need to consume more food on a daily basis in winter. They have little body fat to store the energy they need to keep warm and move about. And when the temperatures plummet into the single digits and below they are often only 36 hours from starvation. A high fat diet is what provides the energy in the form of calories to keep warm in the winter. Birds have a poor sense of smell so they locate food by sight and they can identify which seeds contain the highest fat content. So what is it birds need?
- Wild bird feeds with a high concentration of fatty oils are what birds’ desire in winter so black oil sunflower seed is always a good product to put in your backyard bird feeders. That black oil sunflower seed used in bird feeders is the same seed that is crushed to extract sunflower oil for human consumption Safflower seed is another seed popular with birds due to it high fat content. And Nutra Saff safflower seed producers an even high fat content of about 50%. Peanuts are another source of high fat for birds. Shelled peanuts have a fat content as high as 48%.
- Nyjer thistle seed is another product used for wild bird feed that is high in fat from the oil it contains. In those countries where Nyjer thistle seed is grown; Burma, India and Ethiopia, the seeds are crushed for cooking oil, just as we crush black oil sunflower seeds for our cooking oil. When finches feed on Nyjer seed they use their beak to pinch and crush the seed to extract the oil then drop the remaining hull to the ground.
- Stripe sunflower seeds or hulled stripe sunflower seeds are also another source of high fat that birds crave. Hulled sunflower seeds are especially attractive to those folks that feed birds as they leave little or no mess on the ground.
All in all a diversity of wild bird feeds that contain a high content of fatty oils is most beneficial to birds during the winter months.
And don’t be concerned if you decide to quit feeding birds in the middle of winter. As we said birds have numerous locations they have identified as winter food resources and they will do just fine.
Bird Feeding Tips
- Provide various styles of backyard bird feeders for the different feeding characteristics that bird have. Consider one each of the seven basic backyard bird feeders. This will assure you of attracting the largest variety of bird species to your yard. Check out the Wild Bird Habitat Store’s “SEVEN BASIC BIRD FEEDERS”
- Birds that are attracted to elevated wild bird feeders are after those high fat seeds we discussed. So fill your bird feeders with the one of the sunflower seed products we listed above, white safflower seed or Nutra Saff safflower seed, peanuts, or a combination of all. Some wild bird feeds come premixed in bags with various oil seeds and also contain dried fruits and tree nuts.
- Add a little grit to your backyard bird feeding program during the winter months. Grit is needed by birds to digest the seeds they consume. Often in winter snow pack and ice covers any available grit. You can use coarse sand or fine gravel. You will also find grit available at local wild bird feed stores or pet stores.
- Water is essential for birds to keep hydrated. During the winter many water sources become frozen over. Add a heater to your bird bath or supply your feathered guests with a heated bird bath. Although birds will consume snow for hydration, it lowers their body temperature and the must consume even more food to offset that. Plus clean feathers provide better protection from the cold. So consider offering birds open water during the winter. As they say, you can almost attract more birds with water during the winter than food alone.
- Keep snow cleaned off the bird feeders so the wild bird feeds you are offering are readily available and accessible. Shovel deep snow from around the feeders to allow the birds that feed primarily on the ground easier access to seeds that have fallen on the ground. You may want to include a ground bird feeder specifically for those ground foraging birds such as Dark-eyed Juncos, native sparrows, and doves
- If you want to provide shelter and roosting sites for birds during winter, leave a few birdhouses or nesting boxes in your yard. Maybe install a winter roost box for birds. Consider a brush pile in the corner of your yard to provide shelter from winter storms and a safe place to escape predators.
How to Keep Pests Away
During winter, locating food is the primary daily activity of all animals. To prevent free roaming cats from predating on the birds at your feeders locate your bird feeders so birds can observe any approaching predators. To deter squirrels, raccoons, and other pests from raiding your bird feeders and stealing the food consider a squirrel or raccoon baffle to block them from accessing the feeder. Keep grackles, those pesky black birds, from gorging on the wild bird feed using a feeder protected by a cage.
If you have more questions about bird feeding and want to give your local birds appropriate winter food, turn to the experts at Wild Bird Habitat Store in Lincoln, NE. This family-owned and -operated backyard bird feeding store offers a variety of bird feeders and backyard bird feeding supplies, along with 21 varieties of premium NON-GMO, pesticide free wild bird feeds to attract all sorts of birds to your yard. To learn more about birds and how to feed them, call (402) 420-2553 today, or visit their online learning center.