We love to cozy up inside and stay far away from icy outdoor elements during the long winter months. For our little feathered friends, though, that frigid weather can be deadly. While some birds head south for the winter, there are plenty of northwest birdies that do their best to stick it out through the cold. Thankfully, there are plenty of things that we can do to provide a safer winter for them and plenty of bird watching for us!
One of the best ways to help your neighborhood birds survive this season is to provide plenty of food for them. Especially when their usual food supply of seeds, nuts, and berries is low, birds need easy access to protein-rich options. Ensure the seed mix you purchase is high quality and not full of fillers like cracked corn that the birds are likely to ignore. Suet is another option, although because it is more exposed, it may get wet quicker. If you want to attract birds to your yard, keep the seed replenished, dry, and available in several places. Different kinds of birds favor certain types of feeders, so choose one with that in mind.
Also, be wary of predators, because just like the birds, most animals' meals are in short supply this time of year. Keep a close eye on pets and ensure to elevate feeders. When the snow comes, regularly monitor the area and keep it accessible by removing any ice and snow. Finally, during winter, the air's increased moisture can cause severe issues like mold and disease. It is crucial for these little guys' health that this is avoided by cleaning the feeders frequently.
Similarly, no bird haven is complete without access to water. Especially in climates where the weather stays below freezing for a few days, providing neighborhood birdies with running water is essential for their survival. Some bird-watchers use heated birdbaths, but this could do more harm than good, depending on the weather. Birds need water to drink, but they also use water to preen their feathers, which is vital for keeping their bodies well insulated. Bathing in constant freezing temperatures could result in frozen feathers. Observe the temperature when your birdbath is out and provide another water option if it is too cold for too long. When necessary, place medium-sized rocks in the dish, so there is water access without enough room for a birdie spa day!
Small birds will only make a permanent home where there is nearby shelter to hide from predators. Planting greenery and bushes with year-round foliage can offer protection for these feathered families and sometimes even provide nuts and berries. Some ground-feeding species like Juncos, Sparrows, and Towhees seek shelter under large evergreen trees or even decks! Just make sure that if your yard attracts these guys, you also keep the ground clear of snow for access to any dropped seed.
Finally, providing a birdhouse or roost box for birdie friends is a great way to keep them visiting all winter long! Place houses above ground but in a steady location near a wall or somewhere protected by the wind. If using a standard birdhouse, plug ventilation openings and hang upside down so that the hole is near the bottom. This will help keep in the heat. Check with your local bird or hardware store if you are interested in winter-specific bird housing.
Watching these little guys visit is not only a fun hobby but an excellent learning opportunity for the kiddos as well. Offering a home for birds during the coldest months helps ensure plenty of bird friends come spring--which means fewer weeds, a healthier garden, and natural insect removal. Not to mention, these beautiful visitors offer hours of fascinating entertainment!
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