Winter Feeding Our Feathered Friends
As winter comes on it get increasingly harder for birds to find food. For those that enjoy having birds around this is a great time of year for us to help them by putting out feeders. Feeding birds in the winter can be enjoyable and rewarding. It can also mean giving birds that chose not to migrate a greater chance of surviving through the winter.
Most birds develop feeding patterns and will move from food source to food source. The birds visiting your yard will start to rely on your feeding stations. If you start feeding birds, it's very important that you feed them every day through the winter. Their survival could depend on your feeding station. If you stop feeding the birds, they may not have time to find other sources of food get them through critical times.
Four basic feeding locations will accommodate most of the seed eating birds: ground, tabletop/platform, hanging and tree trunk. Different types of food attract different types of birds. Birds have the easiest time finding food when the food is placed in an area where the birds would naturally look for it. Ground feeding birds such as Towhees, Juncos, Quail and many types of Sparrow prefer searching in the leaf litter under bushes and trees. Finches, Goldfinch, Pine-siskins, Grosbeaks, Chickadees and members of the Jays preferred to feed higher and so suspended feeders or tabletop type of feeders work better for them. Nuthatches, creepers and woodpeckers prefer tree trunk stations but will also feed from platform type of feeders.
Types of food
Most winter birds will eat sunflower seeds. Black oil type is probably the easiest to use and most species will eat it. White proso millet/canary seed is also a great food source. These seeds can be feed separately or in a mix. I have feeders for both ways. Thistle or Niger seeds are good for attracting smaller birds such as finches, chickadees and siskins and usually feed in hanging bag type feeders.
Whole unshelled peanuts or peanut halves are great food source for our jay species, which include the Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, Steller’s Jay and an occasional Eastern Blue Jay. Magpies and crows will also come in for peanuts.
Suet will also attract birds. Suet, which is another name for fat, is a rich source of energy for birds. Premade suet cakes are easily purchased and can be placed in hanging baskets or stuck on a nail for the birds to feed on.
Birds are more interested in the food than your feeder or how the feeder looks. Homemade or store bought work equally well. Just make sure your feeder keeps the seeds in it dry and the birds can reach the food easily.
As you set up your feeding station, keep two things in mind — variety and safety.
Providing a variety of foods and feeders, placed at different heights, will attract a greater selection of birds.
Natural areas birds normally use are great places to put a feeder. Birds select these areas because they not only protect them from the wind and the weather, they also offer escape cover from predators such as cats.
Also, remember to place your feeders where you can easily see them. You want to place feeders if possible within 3 feet of a window or 20 feet or greater out in the yard. This is to avoid having birds colliding with your windows.
Feeding our feather friends can supply hours of entertainment and enjoyment to people of all ages and can also help birds survive the rigors of winter.