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Feeders help native birds survive cold winters

Posted: January 25, 2015 - 1:09am
A birdseed mix that includes sunflower seeds and peanuts will attract a wide variety of birds like this brown-headed nuthatch and red-bellied woodpecker.   File photo by Jim Blaylock
File photo by Jim Blaylock
A birdseed mix that includes sunflower seeds and peanuts will attract a wide variety of birds like this brown-headed nuthatch and red-bellied woodpecker.

The cold, blustery days of winter can decrease the chances of survival for our feathered friends, particularly with the unseasonable temperatures that much of the country is experiencing. There are several ways, however, to help native birds survive freezing temperatures.

“Native birds can usually survive what Mother Nature brings, but their chances of survival increase if you stock a bird feeder,” notes an excerpt from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Birds migrate on their own schedule and get their food from a variety of sources. However, providing food during a bad winter storm can make a marked difference in the lifespan of the birds.

Ideally, feeders should be placed in sheltered locations out of severe wind. Placing birdfeeders close to the house provides the protection birds need and homeowners can enjoy birdwatching from indoors.

High-fat food is the best to offer birds in the colder weather, as it provides plenty of energy for winter survival. Among some of the foods to put out are black oil sunflower seed, hulled peanuts, suet mixes with seeds or fruits, peanut butter and white millet seed.

“When choosing birdseed and other foods for winter feeding, take into consideration which bird species are present in the winter and what foods they prefer to avoid excess wasted seed,” explains Melissa Mayntz, a birding and wild bird expert, in an online article.

Among some other tips that Mayntz provides are leaving fruits and berries on trees, hedges and bushes to “provide a natural source of food throughout the winter” and leave nesting boxes and birdhouses up all year round to provide winter roosting sites.”

Don’t overlook the fact that birds also need water in the winter. It can be difficult for birds to find water when the temperatures drop to freezing, so be sure the birdbath is free of ice.

“With care and consideration, backyard birding can be an exhilarating hobby throughout the winter, with birdsong and backyard visits to brighten the coldest, darkest days of the season,” notes Mayntz.

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