The winter can be a tough time of year for birds. However, you can give your feathered friends a helping hand. Attracting birds to your garden will be more successful, if they have a place that makes them feel secure and comfortable even in the worst weather. So providing shelter like roosting or nest boxes will help birds to conserve valuable energy, in particular during frosty winter nights and winter storms.
Natural sources of food are far better for birds than supplemental feeders, for many different reasons. Natural foods will regrow and replenish themselves without needing refills. Birds easily recognise native, natural foods and will be faster to visit natural food sources instead of unfamiliar and possibly intimidating feeders. Also, while natural foods may need some care such as seasonal pruning or gardening, they need far less care than feeders that require regular cleaning and repairs. The easiest foods to grow are seeds, grains, fruits and nuts. Also, growing native plants and bushes will not just attract birds, but also insects, which are not just a food source for insect eating birds, but also pollinators of your garden plants.
Alternatively, or as an addition to natural food sources, feeding stations can be provided to attract and support garden birds, in particular during periods of bad weather or during breeding season. The first point to consider before buying feeder and bird food is to determine, whether the right types of bird food is being chosen for the birds visiting your garden, and to the birds you wish to attract. Different species eat different things, and different bird species need different types of feeders. For example, sparrows and finches like seeds. Tits like fat. Thrushes and robins love fruit and worms. Starlings will eat just about anything. Preferred food sources will also vary considerably throughout the year. You may have to do some research before you get started.
When having made all these decisions, and food and feeders have been purchased, then please make sure that not more food is being put out than what will get eaten during the day. This is important, if you do not want to attract unwanted visitors and to avoid food getting mouldy. You can also come up with your own recipes for winter bird treats. You could smear peanut butter on a tree trunk, and poke some peanut bits into it. Melt suet in your microwave and pour it into an ice-cube tray. Before it solidifies, add peanut bits, raisins, apple bits or other bird foods into it. Then put the tray in your freezer to harden. Take out the number of cubes you require and feed them to your garden visitors.
Top 14 Tips for Winter Bird Feeding
- Winter bird feeders should be placed in sheltered locations out of the most severe winds. Placing feeders closer to the house will be effective and will help keep the birds visible for indoor bird watching.
- Feeders should be placed near protective cover such as hedges or a brush pile to offer birds safety from predators.
- Position feeders several feet from natural cover where birds can hide if necessary, but not so close as to allow predators a place for an ambush.
- Not only birds struggle with harsh winter conditions. Offer other food for other animals, such as cobs of corn for squirrels, in a different location, so they are less tempted to raid the bird feeders.
- To minimise window collisions, place feeders no more than five feet away from a wall or window, and use window clings or other techniques to help birds avoid the glass.
- Feeders will be most useful in the winter if they have a wide cover over feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays so seed is not buried during snowfalls or storms.
- For smaller bird species, choose specialised feeders with repellents such as caged perches.
- Proper cleaning will minimise mould and other unhealthy conditions that could foster disease among birds and squirrels.
- When cleaning discard soggy seed and let the feeder dry before refilling. Wipe down perches, poles and other parts of the feeder as well.
- To properly store seed, it should be kept in a cool and dry place that is protected from bugs and rodents.
- Leave fruit and berries on trees, hedges and bushes to provide a natural source of food throughout the winter.
- Keep your bird bath clean and ice free. You may want to add a heated bird bath to your backyard or place a safe heating element in a regular bird bath to provide birds with liquid water.
- Stamp or shovel snow around feeders to provide easier access to spilled seed for ground feeding birds.
- Leave nesting boxes and bird houses up all year round to provide winter roosting sites.