Preparing for winter bird feeding

by John Briggs on October 5, 2006

in Blog

Dark-Eyed Junco on bird feeder[tag]Winter[/tag] can be a difficult time for birds in [tag]New England[/tag]. Days are short, windy and cold and nights are long and even colder. The abundant vegetation of summer and fall has withered or been consumed and most insects are dead or dormant.

If you don’t already have a backyard feeder now is the perfect time to set one up. It will make your feathered friends lives easier and yours more enjoyable as you observe their beauty and antics.

 

What To Feed Them

Most [tag]songbirds[/tag] feed on insects and spiders during the spring and summer months. However, in the fall and winter non-migratory songbirds must shift their diets to fruits and seeds to survive.
 
Black-oil Sunflower: Different [tag]birds[/tag] prefer different types of seeds, but the seeds that attract the greatest variety of species are black-oil sunflower. These seeds are nutritious and high in fat plus their small size and thin shells make them easy for small birds to eat.

Thistle or Niger Seeds: Thistle seeds are a delicacy for goldfinches, siskins and redpolls. It is best to offer these seeds in a special thistle feeder which has tiny ports that prevent the seeds from spilling out.
 
Peanut Butter or Suet: You can attract insect-eating birds such as Chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches to your yard by offering peanut butter or suet. Peanut butter and suet are both excellent high energy foods.
  
Fruit: Thrushes, Mockingbirds, catbirds and waxwings will come to a feeder which offers fruit. Try dried fruits such as raisin and fresh sliced fruit on a platform feeder or plate.

Tips For Winter Feeding
 
Keep some extra feeders for use in bad weather. It will not only give birds more places to eat it will cut down on your trips outside to refill the feeder.

Make sure the seed is kept dry. Hopper and tube feeders will protect seed from wet weather and platform feeders should be swept of any snow.

Scatter seed in underbrush and sheltered places. Some birds prefer to feed in thicket and brambles so be sure to scatter seed in hedges, bushes and along wooded areas or even under your deck.

Use high energy food such as suet and peanut butter.

Use your old [tag]Christmas tree[/tag] for shelter and as a windbreak near your [tag]feeder[/tag].

Prepare your [tag]birdhouses[/tag] for winter roosting. Make sure the houses are clean and then use three to four inches of clean dry meadow grass or wood shavings. Then plug the air vent holes with removable weather stripping.

Keep your feeders clean. Take advantage of good weather to clean and disinfect your feeders.  Use one part bleach to nine parts hot water. 

Offer a fresh source of water and consider the use of a birdbath heater. If you do not have a [tag]birdbath[/tag] heater, keep the water ice-free if at all possible. Empty the birdbath in the evening and fill again in the morning. NEVER use chemicals such as antifreeze to keep the water from freezing!

 Happy [tag]birding[/tag]!

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